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The 19th Winter Deaflympics will be held in Italy from Dec. 12 to 21, 2019.
Competition will be held in six sports – Alpine skiing, chess, cross-country skiing, curling, ice hockey and snowboarding.
A total of 33 countries will take participate.
“The experience means the world to me,” said Canadian ice hockey coach Michael Merriman. “This competition is at its purest form of amateurism competing at the world level for your country. This group of athletes play for the love of their country, families and the game. Every time I participate in these events, I feel rejuvenated towards the sport itself and the people I meet and work with as we work towards bringing home the gold for Canada while representing Canada at the highest standard.”
Jack DesRoches has experienced what it’s like to wear a Team Canada jersey.
Now the 20-year-old son of well-known figure skating coach Julie McNeill and John DesRoches of Days Corner has been selected to play for Canada’s hockey team at the Winter Deaflympics in Italy from Dec. 12 to 21.
“Every kid dreams of going to an Olympics and representing their country,” said DesRoches, a hard-nosed defenceman with the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. “It’s definitely nice to be part of an Olympics with everyone who is deaf and hard of hearing.
“It’ll be nice to go to Italy, a great country, and experience this tournament and all the countries that are coming in.”
This will be the second time DesRoches has represented Canada internationally. He attended the 2017 world deaf hockey championships in Amherst, N.Y.
“I got to play with other people with the same disability as me,” reflected DesRoches, who underwent surgery for a cochlear implant at the age of six that allows him to partially hear. “It was a big stage and I never got to play in that big of a stage before.
“It took a while to adjust to the tournament. This year, I should be more prepared and it’s an honour to represent my country.”
“Every kid dreams of going to an Olympics and representing their country. It’s definitely nice to be part of an Olympics with everyone who is deaf and hard of hearing. It’s nice to have this tournament and it’ll be nice to go to Italy, a great country, and experience this tournament and all the countries that are coming in.”
- Team Canada defenceman Jack DesRoches
DesRoches was selected for Team Canada after attending a four-day training camp at Notre Dame school in Wilcox, Sask., in late July.
“Jack was a no-brainer to be on our team,” said Team Canada head coach Michael Merriman. “He will offer his skill set on the ice to help us in all areas of the game, 5-on-5 player as well as special-team assignments.
“The real reason he was a no-brainer was the way he carried himself off the ice with his peers. His engagement to get to know his peers and charismatic demeanour to lead his teammates was a natural fit.”
Kensington Wild assistant coach Duane Richards, who worked with DesRoches for 2 ½ seasons with the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League team, offered similar comments as Merriman.
“Jack’s a great kid, on and off the ice, and you couldn’t ask for a better kid,” said Richards. “On the ice, he is a great competitor and he’s played at a high level.
“It's great to see the success he has had playing junior A. He doesn’t view his hearing as a disability and he plays every bit as hard and as well as everyone else.”
DesRoches, who wears a hearing aid while playing with the Timberwolves, noted there will be one big adjustment in Italy.
“In this tournament, no one can hear and when the whistle goes a light comes on around the boards,” said DesRoches. “This game is all visual. You have to keep your head on a swivel.
“You can’t always rely on your partners and you are not getting help from another person.”
DesRoches acknowledges he is better prepared this time around.
“I get to play with the same guys again and hopefully we will have good chemistry again,” said DesRoches. “I learned a little bit of sign (language), so I can communicate better.
“In 2017, I was the only guy on the team who couldn’t sign or anything.”
DesRoches admits Team Canada will not be lacking motivation after earning the silver medal in 2017. Their only loss came to the United States 6-3 in the gold-medal game.
“I have talked to guys on my team and they are excited to go,” said DesRoches. “For some of them, it’s their third or fourth year and they have more experience than me.”
Players must be at least 16-years-old and DesRoches noted he believes at least one of his teammates will be in his 30s. He expects the calibre of play to be comparable to junior A.
“When I played in 2017 there were a lot of guys who had finished playing junior A,” said DesRoches. “Most of the players played junior A.
“It was a pretty fast-paced and hard-hitting game. I’d say it would be similar to the Timberwolves and (Summerside Western) Caps.”
Canada’s hockey schedule at 2019 Winter Deaflympics: Friday, Dec. 13
Canada vs. Russia.
Sunday, Dec. 15
Canada vs. Finland.
Wednesday, Dec. 18
Canada vs. Kazakhstan.
Friday, Dec. 20
Canada vs. United States.
Saturday, Dec. 21