Sean Kyte was hoping for a better result. He had represented Canada at the World Deaf Hockey Championships in 2017 in Buffalo, New York and had felt the sting of losing in the gold medal game to the United States, but two years later he was confident his team could beat the Americans.
Kyte, along with two of his cousins, Thomas and Johnny Kyte, had made the Canadian team that had travelled to Chiavenna, Italy to play against the best hearing impaired hockey players in the world at the Winter Deaflympics hockey tournament. To participate, players must have a minimum hearing loss of 55 decibels in the better of their two ears.
Through the round robin, the Canadian team cruised to four consecutive wins, beating Russia 3-1, Finland 5-1, Kazakhstan 18-0 and the United States 4-1. The undefeated record, including the win against the Americans, gave the Canadians confidence they could prevail in the gold medal game. Unfortunately, that confidence was shattered as the Americans took command of the game early and won 7-3, meaning Kyte and his teammates would again have to settle for a silver medal.
“After losing to the U.S. two years ago, and losing again this year, it was really heartbreaking. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it was an unbelievable experience,” says Kyte.
Part of that experience was playing in an arena that offered a breathtaking open-air view of the Alps. The arena had seating on only one side, and while the playing surface was covered, the other side of the building faced the mountains and was wide open, providing a picturesque setting for the championship game that was played in front of a sold out crowd.
“It was stunning. Sitting on the bench, you could see the mountains across from you, which is something I will never forget,” says Kyte.
Players were not permitted to wear their hearing aids during games, so in addition to whistles, strobe lights were used to alert the players of a stoppage in play. The arena also had only one door on the player’s bench, making it more difficult to make line changes.
Hearing impairment is prevalent within the Kyte family. Sean’s father, Murray Kyte, also has hearing loss and won a bronze medal when he played in the tournament several years ago in Russia, while his Uncle Frayne Kyte won a gold medal in Switzerland. Sean’s Uncle, Jim Kyte, was the first deaf player in the National Hockey League, and through his 16-year professional career and following his retirement as an athlete, he continues to be a great advocate for deaf athletes.
Kyte had to attend tryouts several months ago to earn a spot on the Canadian roster. He’s hoping to wear the red and white jersey to represent his country again when the World Deaf Hockey Championships are played on Canadian soil in 2021.
The tournament will be played in Vancouver, a city that has a golden hockey history, having hosted Sidney Crosby’s “golden goal” in the 2010 Winter Olympics. If Kyte can again make the team, he hopes Crosby’s game winning overtime goal against the Americans will provide the inspiration for Canada’s deaf team to win it all.