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An unusual, but great experience

April 10, 2013

I don’t remember how I found out, perhaps through the news… Last week marked the second ever World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships (for men) and it was held in Vantaa at the Tikkurila sports park.

First of all, I don’t personally know anyone who speaks sign language. My uncle is deaf, but he acquired his disability and otherwise functions normally because he can read lips very well. I know one or two signs, but have never made the effort to learn sign language.

But, on with hockey. When I found out that Team Canada would be in the tournament and had good chances to make the final, I suggested to the Mr. that we go and check it out. He agreed and we brought the Little Miss as well, she enjoys the chance to cheer for Canada (or Finland) when the opportunity arises. So, last Saturday Canada played the (penalty-filled) final against Russia. Russia came out on top 5-4. Finland played the US for bronze and won 6-4. It was a great game, fast and hard-hitting.

Other than the fact that the players are deaf and need visual cues during the game, there is virtually difference in how the game is played. When the play is stopped (i.e. the officials stop play), lights mounted at both ends of the rink flash three times to communicate to the players.

What was interesting, and this caught me off guard, was the silence. We arrived at the arena and the people selling tickets spoke sign language, the people selling souvenirs spoke sign language, most of the spectators spoke sign language – but, there were very animated conversations going on – just as there would be at any other sporting event. When the game was on, there was no yelling on the ice (as you would hear at say an SM-liiga game) and you could hear every shot, every thump of the puck on the goalie’s pads, the puck hitting the post…

The game was close and I found myself yelling… And then I thought, “Why am I yelling? They can’t hear me!” I guess I needed to legitimize my support for Team Canada. 🙂

In between periods I spoke with the equipment manager for Team Finland. He did not speak sign language himself and had been with the team for several months already, he said. He had even been taking care of some the equipment for Team Canada during the tournament. When I asked him if it had been challenging, he indicated that there had been some communication issues along the way, but that he had really enjoyed his time with the team.

As the title of this post indicates, an unusual, but really great experience! Congrats to team Finland on the bronze medal!

Find out more about deaf sport in Finland: www.skul.org

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