Silent Hockey

By KBJR News 1

February 21, 2013 Updated Feb 21, 2013 at 11:35 AM CDT

Proctor, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- Part of enjoying a high school or college hockey game is the atmosphere.

The friends you talk with, the sound of the players colliding, and the crowds going crazy after a goal.

Imagine if you couldn't hear any of that.

Tom Hansen reports on how a Proctor hockey player who doesn't let his inability to hear slow him down.

"I started when I was young, in this part of the state, I started when I was just four years old, and turned out to love it. You play a lot of hockey growing up and make a lot of friends, and friends that have lasted even to this day," said Ryan Krajewski a USA Deaf Hockey Player.

"When we were growing up, like Ryan said, we didn't know he was hearing impaired. He played it off pretty good. He was pretty good at reading lips. But once we became aware of it, it never became an issue ever," said Steve Rodberg, a friend of Krajewski and Proctor Head Coach.

Ryan Krajewski loves hockey so much, he even officiates at the youth level. Unhappy fans, players and coaches don't bother him, he can't hear them.

I always had an interest in officiating in any sports I played. It's a natural fit. I sure enjoy doing it and it's a natural way to stay involved.

The sounds of hockey are something we take for granted, but for Ryan he can't hear this without his hearing aids.

"As a youngster I was never comfortable wearing them. I had them, and would wear them if I really needed them in classroom setting, I would wear them. In athletics it isn't really practical. You sweat, they get wet, and they break," Krajewski said.

Not only has Ryan not let his hearing challenges slow him down, he has embraced his disability, traveling around the world, in the last ten years, playing for the U.S. national deaf Hockey team.

"It's the ultimate honor to do something like that. For most of us hearing impaired guys, we are patriotic just like every other US citizen, but we can't serve in the military. Most of us can't be on the police force or the fire department or traditional jobs like that. We all had dreams of doing those things, but because of our hearing we were ruled out for most of those things. This is just one way, we can put on the red, white and blue and say yeah, we are part of that," said Krajewski.

"I have been friends with Ryan for a long time and with Ben Johnson and they are my good buddies and have been doing this for years. It's just an honor to see guys from our area play for our country and represent well," Rodberg said.

Ryan did have normal hearing, but around the age of five he lost it due to a male genetic family condition.
His father, uncles and male cousins are also all hearing impaired to some extent...

"The challenge growing up was keeping your head on a swivel, and the coach could be yelling things from the bench and I would be oblivious to it. And for some coaches that made them angry and difficult to play for them. And for other coaches, they took a liking to me and understood," Krajewski said.

Ryan will play for the U.S. National deaf hockey team next month in Finland at the World Championships.

The U.S. squad is seeking financial donations to help defray the costs of traveling to the tournament.

For deaf and hard to hear hockey players, click here for more information.