Support AG Bell Today

Making Goals

Luke Chrzan has been playing hockey since he was 6 years old. Now 16, the New Jersey Titans goalie has dreams of playing in college and one day, the Deaf Olympics.

Lea en Español

Written By: Kirsten Ballard

Luke Chrzan has been playing hockey since he was 6 years old. Now 16, the New Jersey Titans goalie has dreams of playing in college and one day, the Deaf Olympics.

“The reason I play goalie is a funny story,” he says. “The reason I picked it is I don’t have to hear anything, I just sit at the net and all I have to do is make saves. My teammates aren’t really yelling at me, I’m yelling at them. It’s a good trade off.”

Luke has had hearing loss since birth, wears hearing aids, and has been “playing hockey since forever.” One day, his dad, John Chrzan, googled “hearing impaired hockey,” found the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA), and attended a festival nearby. They were hooked.

“League play is obviously a competitive league. I’m there to work on my skills and get better,” Luke says.

“[When] I go to AHIHA, everything is a lot more chilled out, even though you’re there to get better and increase your skills. But you’re mainly there to have fun, and make new friends, and have a good time,”

AHIHA hosts the Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired annually in Chicago with about 80 to 100 students each summer. This year, due to COVID, it had to cancel the school and instead hosted regional clinics in Chicago, Minnesota and Boston. Since its founding in 1973, the school has had over 4,000 players.

In fact, one of those players is now AHIHA’s president Kevin Delaney. He was born with inner ear nerve damage and grew up wearing a hearing aid, which he resented. At the hockey school, he found camaraderie and friends, and realized he was not so different. He, too, kept going back.

“I started going after 8th grade and it was some of the best coaching of my career, as a player there. So it was always fun going back. The people and players I met I’m still friends with. I got a lot of where I am because of the school,” Delaney says. He has coached on the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks for over eight years. He still loves giving back at AHIHA.

“My favorite part is being on the ice, coaching the kids,” he says, mentioning how they host a Wednesday night banquet for everyone. “Everyone gets together and we have a nice meal, we do the raffle, we give awards. It’s a nice, feel-good session and a reminder of why we do it.”

Since Delaney first got involved, he’s watched technology change and improvements in cochlear implants and hearing aids, but one thing remains the same.

“There is still a common denominator that [kids with hearing impairments] aren’t getting fair treatment,” he says. “Coaches don’t want to deal with someone who takes extra time to coach. When kids come to the school, they’re among their peers. They find out they can get coached and get better and have a good time.”

Though AHIHA’s rink has rigged up lights to flash when a whistle blows, Delaney says that hearing impairments are not a differentiator. “In regular play, you alert the referees and the other team that there’s a player [who is deaf or hard of hearing] and everyone adapts,” he says.

Luke seconds this, saying that while it can be loud in the rink, he does not feel his hearing impairment impacts his ability to stop the puck. “Sometimes it’s hard to hear, I usually have to ask people to repeat when they’re a good distance from me. But I’ve been doing it for so long, it doesn’t affect me that much.”

Chrzan recalls one festival Luke played, where, during the second period, the competitors wore ear plugs and nobody cheered. “It was really neat. They got a feeling for what it’s like to play as these guys,” he says.

AHIHA’s school is funded entirely by donors with no cost to participate. During the week, the players and their families stay at a hotel and the organization rents out a suite where kids can hang out while not practicing.

“It’s been great, just seeing the way the kids interact and they don’t see each other for a year because they’re coming from all over the country, and they pick up right where they left off,” Chrzan says. “Everyone is in the same boat, everyone knows what they’re going through. It’s nice to see everyone be so happy, they’re not the kid with the hearing aid or the cochlear implant that week. They’re just friends and hockey players.”

It’s not only the players that become friends. “The parents are giving up a week of vacation to come out and live out of a hotel and live at a hockey rink. Something to be said for that if they keep coming back each year,” Delaney says. “The nice thing is that parents become friends just like players do and they visit each other around the U.S.”

Chrzan is a part of a Facebook group where AHIHA families regularly post where their player’s travel hockey teams will be visiting. The families regularly visit each other, with one AHIHA family going all the way to Alaska from Chicago.

“The unofficial slogan is AHIHA is family,” Chrzan says. “And it really is.”

Seven Phenomenal Athletes who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Jim Kyte

  • First (and only) NHL player with hearing loss

Tamika Catchings

  • 10-time WNBA All-Star

Derrick Coleman

  • Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Champion 

Ujlaky-Rejto Ildiko

  • Fencing Olympic Medalist

Terence Parkin

  • Swimming Olympic Medalist

David Smith

  • Volleyball World Cup Gold Medalist

Gertrude Ederle

  • First woman to swim across the English Channel

For more information, please visit AG Bell here.

Left to Right: Luke and his father, John. Luke receiving the AHIHA Most Outstanding Player Award from Kevin Delaney.

Marcando goles

Luke Chrzan juega al hockey desde que tenía 6 años. Ahora con 16, el portero de los New Jersey Titans sueña con jugar en la universidad y algún día en las Sordolimpiadas.

«La razón de que juegue como portero es divertida», explica. «Me decidí porque no tengo que oír nada. Me quedo en la red y todo lo que debo hacer es parar el disco. Mis compañeros de equipo no me gritan realmente, soy yo el que les grito. No está mal el cambio».

Luke tiene una pérdida auditiva desde que nació, utiliza audífonos y «juega al hockey desde siempre». Un día, su padre, John Chrzan, buscó en Google «hockey para personas con problemas de audición», encontró la AHIHA (American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association) y asistieron a un campeonato cercano. Acabaron enganchados.

«Los partidos de liga son obviamente competitivos y participo para desarrollar mis habilidades y mejorar», añade Luke. “En la AHIHA todo es mucho más relajado, a pesar de que vas para mejorar y perfeccionar tus habilidades. Pero vas sobre todo para divertirte, hacer nuevos amigos y pasar un buen rato».

La AHIHA es anualmente la sede de la Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired en Chicago con unos 80-100 alumnos cada verano. Este año, debido a la COVID, tuvo que cancelar la escuela y, en su lugar, organizó clínicas (sesiones formativas) regionales en Chicago, Minnesota y Boston. Desde su fundación en 1973, por la escuela han pasado más de 4.000 jugadores.

De hecho, uno de estos jugadores es Kevin Delaney, el actual presidente de la AHIHA. Nació con el nervio auditivo dañado y creció utilizando un audífono, lo que le resultaba molesto. En la escuela de hockey conoció el compañerismo, hizo amigos y se dio cuenta de que no era tan diferente. Él, también, siguió acudiendo.

“Comencé a ir después de octavo y fue una de mis mejores épocas de formación en mi carrera como jugador. Siempre resultaba divertido volver. Todavía sigo siendo amigo de la gente y los jugadores que conocí allí. Mucho de lo que soy se lo debo a la escuela», dice Delaney. Es entrenador de los Chicago Blackhawks en la NHL (Liga Nacional de Hockey) desde hace más de ocho años. Todavía disfruta acudiendo a la AHIHA.

«Mi parte favorita es la pista de hielo, cuando entreno a los niños», asegura y añade que organizan un banquete los miércoles por la tarde al que acude todo el mundo. «Nos reunimos y disfrutamos de una buena cena, hacemos un sorteo y entregamos premios. Es una reunión agradable y divertida, y es un recordatorio de por qué jugamos».

Desde que Delaney empezó a participar, ha sido testigo de cambios en la tecnología y mejoras en los implantes cocleares y los audífonos, pero hay algo que sigue siendo igual.

«Todavía existe un denominador común y es que [los niños con discapacidad auditiva] no reciben un trato justo», afirma. «Los entrenadores prefieren no trabajar con jugadores que necesitan más tiempo de entrenamiento. Cuando los niños acuden a esta escuela, se encuentran con iguales. Descubren que pueden recibir entrenamiento, mejorar y pasar un buen rato».

Aunque en la pista de AHIHA se han instalado luces que parpadean cuando suena un silbato, Delaney asegura que la discapacidad auditiva no es ningún factor diferenciador. «En un partido normal se avisa a los árbitros y al otro equipo de que hay un jugador [con sordera o hipoacusia] y todos se adaptan».

Luke opina lo mismo, explicando que, aunque puede haber ruido en la pista, no cree que su discapacidad auditiva influya en su capacidad de parar el disco. «A veces resulta difícil oír y suelo pedir a los compañeros que repitan lo que han dicho si se encuentran cerca de mí. Pero, como lo llevo haciendo tanto tiempo, no me afecta mucho».

Chrzan recuerda un campeonato en el que jugó Luke y en el que, durante la segunda parte, los contrincantes utilizaron tapones de oídos y nadie aplaudía. «Fue genial. Se hicieron una idea de lo que es jugar como estos chicos», asegura.

La escuela de la AHIHA la financian donantes en su totalidad, por lo que no supone ningún costo participar. Durante la semana, los jugadores y sus familias se hospedan en un hotel y la organización alquila una suite donde los niños pueden pasar el rato mientras no practican.

«Es estupendo ver cómo los niños interactúan, después de no haberse visto durante un año, ya que acuden de todas las partes del país, y continúan justo donde lo dejaron», dice Chrzan. «Todos están en el mismo barco, todos saben por lo que están pasando. Es agradable verlos a todos tan felices. Durante una semana dejan de ser el niño con el audífono o el implante coclear. Son solo amigos y jugadores de hockey».

No solo los jugadores hacen amigos. «Los padres se toman una semana de vacaciones, se hospedan en un hotel pero viven en una pista de hockey. Algo bueno tendrá si acuden todos los años», opina Delaney. «Lo cierto es que los padres se hacen amigos, al igual que los jugadores, y se visitan unos a otros por todo el país».

Chrzan forma parte de un grupo de Facebook donde las familias de la AHIHA publican regularmente dónde jugarán sus equipos de hockey. Las familias se visitan con regularidad y se da el caso de una familia de AHIHA que se traslada a Alaska desde Chicago.

«El lema no oficial es AHIHA es familia», asegura Chrzan. «Y realmente lo es».

Siete magníficos atletas con sordera e hipoacusia

Jim Kyte

  • Primer (y único) jugador de la NHL con pérdida auditiva

Tamika Catchings

  • 10 veces All-Star de la WNBA

Derrick Coleman

  • Campeón de Supercopa de los Seattle Seahawks 

Ujlaky-Rejto Ildiko

  • Medallista olímpica de esgrima

Terence Parkin

  • Medallista olímpico de natación

David Smith

  • Medalla de oro en la Copa Mundial de Voleibol

Gertrude Ederle

  • Primera mujer en cruzar a nado el Canal de la Mancha

Para mas infomación, visite a AG Bell International aquí.

AG Bell membership for families is always free!

Family membership benefits:

  • Financial Support

    Scholarships for technology, therapy, and education

  • Professional Guidance

    Speak to a parent who's been there or search for a certified therapist.

  • State Chapters

    Connect with and get support from local families like yours!

  • Resource Library

    Get answers with access to our information library

  • Volta Voices

    A bilingual magazine with in-depth stories about growing up with hearing loss

  • Loft & Leap

    Access to unique leadership & educational programs for teens

Seeking an AG Bell professional membership?

Get listed on our searchable professional directory, find educational and research resources, scholarships and mentorship.

Professional Membership Has Its Benefits

Join today to connect with fellow members, exchange insights, get listed in our global directory, and celebrate the journey of listening & spoken language.

Professional benefits include:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

    Earn CEUs through the AG Bell Academy, at our yearly Symposium, or through events held throughout the year for members

  • $100 off Exam Fees

    Take your Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS®) certification exam for less!

  • Event Discounts

    Discounted registration to AG Bell’s symposium and other events, plus special discounts on travel, restaurants, retail shops and more

  • LSL Professional Directory

    Get listed and found by families that need your services and students that want your mentorship

  • LSL Leading Edge

    An exclusive e-newsletter for AG Bell professional members packed with the latest news and developments in hearing health and the listening & spoken language field

  • Volta Voices 

    AG Bell’s award-winning, quarterly digital magazine in English and Spanish

  • Access to AG Bell’s Network

    Connect with 40+ state chapters located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico

  • Professional Opportunities

    Get involved in AG Bell through committees, task forces, councils and other venues for members to interact and contribute meaningfully

  • The Volta Review 

    Stay current with the latest research through our peer-reviewed, online professional research journal

Seeking membership as a friend or family member?

Membership is always free for family & friends of people who are deaf or hard of hearing and helps connect individuals to our professional community!