Hockey and the Deaf
Hockey is a very vocal sport. It is quick paced and
yelling between teammates is very common. There are plays that need
to be set up in the offensive or defensive zones, and unlike
basketball where the hands are open so plays can be called using
fingers, the hands are covered by protective gloves so the fingers
are not easily seen. The plays are yelled between the players so
they know where to go and what to do. It is also easier to locate a
teammate during such fast play if the player with the puck can hear
the other yelling, or also letting him know if an opposing player is
chasing them and cannot be seen since humans don't have eyes in the
backs of our heads. Also, the referees stop plays using whistles
which can only be heard. No lighting or anything represents a
stoppage of play.
I first thought that being deaf would make playing
competitive hockey impossible because of the major need of hearing.
After doing research, I realized there has been one legally deaf
player who played in the National Hockey League. Jim Kyte was the
first and only legally deaf NHL hockey player. He was a defensemen
drafted in 1982, and played until 1997. He was forced to retire from
a car accident that gave him post concussion syndrome for many years
following the accident. According to www.hockeydraftcentral.com, Jim
Kyte wore hearing aids during games. In the article it states, "To
protect his hearing aids, Kyte wore a helmet that had special flaps
covering the center of his ears"(Dan David, 2001). He wasn't the
greatest player on the ice, he only had 66 points in 598 total
games. He was known for his physical play and also is off ice
contributions to the deaf community and other charities.
There has been one other player that is
partially deaf that plays currently. His name is Steve Downie. "He
is deaf in his right ear due to the hearing disorder otosclerosis
and wears a hearing aid" (Wikipedia, 2008). No NHL players are
completely deaf and don't wear a hearing aid if they are hard of
hearing. The hearing aid is used mostly just to hear high sounds
such as the whistles.
There are leagues that are dedicated to deaf hockey players, such as
the DEAFinitely Hockey Program in Worcester, MA. The program is
linked with the college Holy Cross. Holy Cross has a very large ASL
program with many major events such as the annual DEAFinitely Hockey
Program. According to Judy Freedman Fask in the DEAFinitely hockey
program guide, the players were, "Joined by more than 20 students
from the Holy Cross ASL program throughout the season"(Fask, 2005).
There are many other small organizations that have youth hockey
programs for the deaf community also.
On a larger scale, there is a hockey program that
competes in the winter Deaflympics. Countries that participated in
the recent winter Deaflympics hockey tournament in Salt Lake City,
Utah in early February were Russia, Canada, USA, Finland, Germany,
and Sweden. USA won the gold medal. Many players on the team came
from a great hockey program called the American Hearing Impaired
NHL Hall of Famer Stan Mikita and business partner
Irv Tiahnybik started the Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Hearing
Impaired in 1973 and that school started a long needed hockey
program that has grown so fast because of its popularity. Hundreds
of students attend the hockey school each year to learn to play
hockey, or better tune their hockey skills and possibly play for US
National DEAFlympics team. The program was started because Irv
Tiahnybik wanted a hockey program started for his son who was deaf.
Tiahnybik could not find coaches that would teach his son how to
I have been playing hockey for 20 years and I had no idea that these
organizations existed for deaf players. I actually didn't know any
competitive hockey players were deaf. In my mind, I thought it would
be too hard for a hockey player to play being deaf. It is fantastic
that players are able to use hearing aids to assist them in hearing
the whistles or anything else they would need to hear while playing
the game. I wanted to know if they use other means of communication
between players, coaches, and referees, but I wasn't able to get a
hold of anyone to explain the specifics of the rules, if they are
different, between regular and hearing impaired leagues.
"Jim Kyte." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 15 Jan 2008, 05:31 UTC.
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 Mar 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jim_Kyte&oldid=184427609>
David, Dan. (2001, June). 1982 Draft Pick Jim Kyte. Hockey Alliance.
March 23, 2008. <http://www.hockeydraftcentral.com/1982/82012.html>
"Steve Downie." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Mar 2008, 13:05
UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 Mar 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Steve_Downie&oldid=200788347>
Fask, Judy Freedman. (2005). DEAFinitely Hockey for the Deaf.
Massachusetts Hockey. March 23, 2008. <http://www.masshockey.com/Definitely/>
Fernandez, Ralph. (2008). Sports. Deaflympics. International
Committee of Sports for the Deaf. March 23, 2008. <http://www.deaflympics.com/about/credits.asp>
Staff (2008). Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired.
American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. March 23, 2008.