AHIHA Hockey Camp
First period. Twenty minutes remaining in period. The center player from each team meets in the middle of the two-hundred-foot sheet of ice for a face-off. The other skaters line up fifteen feet behind them. The crowd leans forward and watches closely, anticipating the drop of the puck.
The American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association was established in 1973 by a Chicago business man, the late Irv Tiahnybik, and former Chicago Blackhawk star Stan Mikita. Inspired by Tiahnybik’s hard-of-hearing son Lex, the very first Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired was a great success, accommodating thirty-one boys from various states. Now, located at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois, AHIHA’s Summer Hockey Camp continues to succeed, with around sixty participants each year, under the guidance of Tony Granato, Assistant Coach for the Detroit Red Wings.
The next camp will be held from June 6th to June 13th in 2015. Both boys and girls may participate, and players from beginner through college level are welcome. As AHIHA is totally supported by donations, there is no fee to attend camp, but participants are responsible for accommodations at the host hotel and for meals and transportation. Players under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the entire week, and visitors are always welcome at the rink.
credit: Linda Isenbarger
Second period. Fourteen minutes remaining in period. The score is tied 1-1. After a tedious and lagging first period, the crowd is hoping to receive some more action. Maybe they will get to see a penalty shot. Each team’s supporters are going crazy, thrusting fists in the air as two center players battle for the puck.
AHIHA’s mission is to help deaf and hard of hearing athletes improve their skills and understanding of the game, while instilling confidence and self-esteem. The special needs of deaf and hard of hearing players are the camp’s top priority, as many of these athletes’ needs are often misunderstood or ignored in mainstream athletic programs. During the entire week, interpreters are available both on and off the ice.
The players work with several USA Hockey qualified coaches to improve on-ice skills, systems of play, and the fundamentals of skating, such as power skating. They will also get to experience off-ice conditioning. Players of all different levels and home states attend camp, allowing the athletes to make new and diverse friends and exchange experiences from different parts of the country. The athletes are placed on one of five teams based on their ability, age, and experience, and games against other local teams are played throughout the week.
Third period. Two minutes remaining in period. The score is now tied 3-3. The anticipation deepens. Who will win it all?
To go along with the skill development that factors into hockey lessons and training, AHIHA also provides many fun activities to give the players an opportunity to bond with their teammates and families. Activities include a Barb-b-que, family skating, a pizza party, raffle drawings and auctions, and a final awards ceremony. Some AHIHA players even go on to participate in the annual USA Hockey Disabled Festival, held in a different location each year, which brings together four disciplines: Special Hockey for players with developmental disabilities, Sled Hockey, Standing/Amputee, and Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Male deaf or hard of hearing players who will be the age of 16 before February 1, 2015 are eligible to try out for the Deaflympic Ice Hockey team. The 2015 Deaflympic games will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.
The final buzz… and it is game over! AHIHA Summer Hockey Camp wins the game! By combining fundamental hockey skill training with the inevitable confidence building that comes with being part of a team, all while accommodating for deaf and hard of hearing athletes, AHIHA will definitely take home the trophy this year and for years to come.
For more information on AHIHA Summer Hockey Camp, please visit ahiha.org or e-mail Karen Wonoski.