Six months ago, Tyler DeVore first heard soda fizzing in a glass. He knew the family’s beagle, Lucky, was nearby when her collar jingled. Crowd noise at the hockey rink became much louder, a distraction to be blocked out.
DeVore is deaf, though he is now able to hear nearly everything via a cochlear implant. A Mountain Lakes senior, DeVore has been selected for Team USA at the World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships in Vantaa, Finland, in late March.
Raised a New York Rangers fan in Boonton Township, DeVore first got on the ice at a birthday party when he was 5, “just loved it, and never ever stopped.” He attended development clinics, joined the house league at Floyd Hall Arena at 6, and the Montclair Blues a couple of years later.
Hockey came naturally to DeVore, whose mother, Pamela, recalled, “He could skate backward better than he could walk forward.”
Tyler ruefully agreed, “When I was like 8, I would fall down every time I’d walk anywhere.”
Added Pamela DeVore, “He was this clumsy little boy who did everything 100 miles an hour. He would get on that ice, and it would be so fluid.”
A 5-foot-9, 165-pound defenseman who is unafraid to make a big hit or block a shot, DeVore has attended the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association’s week-long summer camps since he was 7. It is the only time he has ever played hockey with other deaf athletes.
“I often think the deaf kids have more commitment,” said DeVore, who has been on the Mountain Lakes varsity for four years and is now team captain. “Maybe it’s just a character we come with. … I love the game, the atmosphere, the intensity. Hockey, it’s not that complex. Making a big hit, the feeling when you knock someone over, and everybody sees it, it’s a big thing.”
Sound of silence
Since the world championships is a fully deaf tournament, each player must remove any assistive devices — “turn himself off,” said Pamela DeVore — when he gets off the bus. Millions of dollars of hearing aids and processors will be stored in a box with each player’s name number printed on it.
“From that point on, they’re in their own world,” Team USA head coach Jeff Sauer said.
Not hearing the whistle shouldn’t be a problem, since officials will also raise their arm and flash a strobe light along the glass to signal a stoppage in play.