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Hockey Weekly: What Birth Defect? Chase Bramble is best defenseman on his AAA team

12/06/2019, 3:45pm EST
By Paul Harris

Source: Hockey Weekly

Last season, 8-year-old Chase Bramble practiced with his older brother Charlie’s Pee Wee team for two months. It wasn’t until near the end of the season when certain players noticed something different about Chase.

He did not have a left hand.

That difference, which was due to a birth defect, never bothered Chase, who is called Bumble Bee by his teammates. In fact, today Chase is the top defenseman on the AAA Philadelphia Little Flyers Under-10 team that played in the prestigious Nations Cup Tournament this past weekend at Fraser Hockeyland. The team also played an Orchard Lake United team at the St. Mary’s Athletic Complex Saturday night.

“It’s almost like you see him shoot or make a pass, you can’t believe” that he doesn’t have a left hand, said his father, Carl Bramble.

Chase, who was born in Baoan, China, was living in an orphanage as a “waiting child,” meaning he was eligible to be adopted, according to Carl. The family, which lives in Wilmington, Delaware, was aware of Chase because Carl’s wife, Diana, is the executive director of an adoption agency who regularly travels to China.


But the person who first brought attention to Chase was his brother, Charlie, who is the Brambles’ first-born child. When he was around 4, Charlie saw a picture of Chase, who was then 18 months old, in a listing of children eligible for adoption. Charlie pointed at it and said, “That’s my brother!” according to Carl Bramble.

The listing mentioned Chase’s birth defect, but that didn’t stop Charlie from repeating, “That’s my brother!”

Carl says he at first hesitated to adopt a child with a physical defect because the family was active and athletic.

But Charlie kept insisting that Chase was his brother, and one day Carl saw a story in the local paper about a top high school multi-sport athlete who had only one hand.

The family began the adoption process.

“He turned out be very athletic,” Carl said. “He loves playing baseball and swimming, but hockey is No. 1.”

The Brambles are a blended family. In addition to Charlie and Chase, Carl and Diana also have two daughters – Allie, now 12, who was adopted, and Dani, 11, who is also the couple’s biological child.

Carl said that, of the four, Chase “is the most enthusiastic (about sports) … and was immediately a good skater.”

Chase also began working on his stickhandling early.

When the family attended Charlie’s hockey games, Chase would grab a stick and move a ball all over the arena.

“He got very proficient at stickhandling,” his dad said.

Despite that ability, Chase did not think he was good enough to play AAA. But his Little Flyers coach, Richard Klapko, convinced him to try out anyway, and Chase made the team.

“Chase is a very quiet, unassuming young man,” said Klapko. “He takes nothing for granted and works harder than the other players on the team.”

Chase became a defenseman on the team because he skates backward so well.

He also figured out on his own how to fasten the equipment on his left arm so that he could play hockey. He tapes his left glove to his nub with clear hockey tape and also tapes the glove to his left elbow pad.

Chase has tried using a prosthesis that was developed by a hospital in Philadelphia, but he was not comfortable with it. And in order to continue to play AAA he would need a specially made left glove.

Klapko said that the Bauer equipment company has indicated it could develop such a glove but could not begin development until the summer.

“We’re looking for a better system,” Carl said.

He added that Chase has always been independent. He doesn’t need help to dress himself – after figuring out how to do it – and he even laces up his own hockey skates at an age when many youngsters with two hands need help.

Said Klapko: “He has helped other players see that you can do anything you want if you work hard and learn.” 

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