FRASER, Mich. -- Hannah Garcia’s take on hockey sounds like typical advice for any budding young player.
“Make sure you know where the puck is, and your head is up, and you know what’s going on around you,” she said. “Just make sure you’re in a good spot where you can hear and see what’s going on. The main idea is just to make sure you know what’s happening.”
Garcia isn’t a coach — not yet, anyway — she’s a teenage hockey player with a hearing impairment. And by following those solid words of wisdom, she has been able to fare very well on the ice.
The 16-year-old, hailing from the Chicago suburb of Naperville, appears to be every bit a conventional teen athlete, participating in softball, basketball and hockey. She got involved in the latter after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and the kids on her block were into it as well.
“I have two neighbors down the street that are always playing street hockey, I’ve always loved that,” Garcia said. “I’d stay there all night, after I was supposed to be home.”
Hannah, who also plays on her high school district’s team, doesn’t hesitate to name hockey as her favorite sport. As a catcher and first baseman, softball came pretty easy because the action was always in front of her. In basketball, she was outfitted with a tiny FM transmitter so her coach could give her instructions while on the court.
But there aren’t too many modifications necessary for hockey, so that’s why the sport has a good following among hearing-impaired players. Most notably, there are strobe lights at the four corners of the rink that flash on when there is a stoppage in play, but otherwise, it’s the same game.
“For the most part, if you’ve been playing hockey your whole life, you know when the whistle’s going to blow, and you know you have to use your eyes more than anybody else does,” said Michele Gintoli of Shelton, Connecticut, who coached the hard-of-hearing squad at USA Hockey’s Disabled Hockey Festival in the Detroit area from April 7-10.
“The biggest difference is that it just takes longer to get their attention, and it takes longer to explain a drill, particularly because I have a lot of different levels [of experience] with me right now,” Gintoli said. “I have to make sure everybody understands what I’m saying. The hockey rink is probably the worst place in the world for acoustics, and so it just takes longer, that’s all.”
“And to have a whole team of that, you just have to be really patient and understand that I have the same disabilities, so I would want someone to be patient with me,” she added.
To assist the coaches, players wear a strip of tape on their helmets, coded with an H (meaning they can hear when wearing a device), an L (they can lip-read) or S (they use sign language). Several players have interpreters, or signers, with them when they participate.
“They’re just athletes that can’t hear, that’s all,” said Jeff Sauer, President of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA). “They’re just like any kid, you’ve got to get their attention, and you’ve got to get them to focus on what they’re doing.”
The difference is subtle, but becomes noticeable when hearing-enabled players try to empathize. Since there aren’t enough hearing-impaired or deaf players at the Disabled Hockey Festival for an entire tournament bracket, the games are often showcase contests against local teams, who agree to wear earplugs during the second period.
“It’s really cool to show them all we can’t do is hear,” Gintoli said. “I have gotten feedback and even the coaches say, ‘Oh my God, I take for granted what I have. I had to figure out a different way to communicate, and now I know what it’s like to have to communicate with someone who’s hard of hearing if I have that player on my team,’ and that’s the point of it. You never know if you’re going to have a player like that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.
In order to comply with new requirements from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Hockey will be implementing a national level background screening program. This program will replace all USAH Affiliate coordinated background screen programs.
Why must officials be screened?
Per USA Hockey and USOPC policy, all coaches, officials, board members, employees, volunteers, billets and anyone else who will have regular contact with, or authority over, minor athletes are required to submit a background screen before any contact with minor athletes.
Who is required to be screened?
Officials who are 18 years-old (or older) prior to June 1 of the current year.
Any official, 18 years-old (or older) without a completed valid background screen (national or USAH Affiliate coordinated) after April 1, 2019.
All national background screens are valid for two seasons, and starting on June 1, 2020 a national background screen must be completed and in good standing before receiving an officiating card and crest.
What are the timelines for launching the national background screen program?
Beginning on April 1, 2020, background screening will be conducted by our national background screen vendor, National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), and information on background screening will be included following your registration.
As of March 22, 2020, applicants will no longer be able to submit new USA Hockey background screens through USAH Affiliate vendors, and will not be able to submit new screens through NCSI until April 1, 2020.
If you were screened after April 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season, your screen is valid for the 2020-21 season, and you will not need to be screened under the new system until prior to the 2021-22 season. If your most recent screen is from prior to April 1, 2019, you will need to be screened under the new system, after April 1, 2020, in order to participate in the upcoming season.
All new screens submitted through the new NCSI national screening program after April 1, 2020 will be valid for two seasons. For example, a screen submitted and approved on April 15, 2020 will be valid through the end of the 2021-22 season, which is August 31, 2022.
How can members complete their required background screen?
A link to submit for screening will be included in your membership registration confirmation email and posted in the drop-down menu under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.
Background screens through NCSI under the national program will cost $30 for all domestic screens. For international screens (members who have lived outside of the U.S. for six consecutive months in any one county during the past 7 years) the flat rate fee is $150. If that country is solely Canada, the flat rate fee is $75.
Where can members go with questions about the national background screen program?
Please refer to the USA Hockey Background Screen webpage at USAHockey.com.