Hearing impairment hasn’t stopped Humes from a hockey life

March 2, 2021

By Jeff Svoboda

Team USA gold medalist, central Ohio native signs anthem at Thursday’s Blue Jackets game

There have been plenty of cool moments for Scott Humes in the sport of hockey, but it’s hard to top the scene at the 2019 Winter Deaflympics. 

As the United States took on the best hearing-impaired hockey teams in the world at the event in the Sondrio province of northern Italy, snow fell throughout the games in the picturesque mountain locale, and the beauty of the spectacle was obvious to all through the giant windows that lined the side walls of the Sports Centre Valchiavenna.  

To be able to play the sport he loves in such a setting — and return with a gold medal while representing his country — will be an experience that’s hard to top for Humes.

“That might be the most amazing moment I’ve had,” he said. “We had two or three games where the snow was falling and we were playing, and I think that was probably the moment where it was kind of surreal, like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ ” 

You could say that a lot about Humes’ life. The 25-year-old central Ohio native hasn’t let being hearing impaired stop him from playing hockey, nor a kidney transplant he had going into his senior year of high school at Worthington Kilbourne, nor a bout with lymphoma that he fought when he was a 20-year-old playing club hockey at Wright State. 

Through it all, Humes has been a prime example of the impact hockey can have on all, and that was celebrated last night when he was asked to perform the national anthem in sign language beside Leo Welsh ahead of last night’s Blue Jackets game. It was part of Hockey is for Everyone Night presented by Vorys, the annual event that recognizes how the sport can break down boundaries and be enjoyed by all. 

Humes said he was nervous before the anthem, which was broadcast live by Fox Sports Ohio and can be viewed above, but ended up coming through in the clutch, just as he has so often on the ice. 

“It went great!” he said today. “I had a great time but at first I was just (nervous), but Leo as always was just great and worked with me. We did a practice run and it helped me. Once it started, I got settled in and felt fine. Overall, it was wonderful, and we had a great time despite the score. I can’t thank the Blue Jackets enough for giving me the opportunity to participate.” 

Just like he didn’t let the nerves of performing Thursday night stop him, he hasn’t let a myriad of health challenges since birth get in the way either, starting with going on life support at birth because his lungs hadn’t fully developed. As a result of those complications, he has been hearing impaired his entire life, but he showed interest in getting on the ice from an early age. It helped that his father, Mike Humes, has had a long career in the game, including a stint as senior vice president of business operations for the Blue Jackets after being hired as one of the team’s first employees. 

Much of Scott’s early time on the ice was spent at the Chiller locations around Columbus, and Humes also credits the family of former Blue Jackets minority owner Jay Crane, whose children are hearing impaired, for taking an interest in him and supporting his athletics career. 

“The story surprises people by how much it comes back to the Blue Jackets,” Humes said. 

Humes also showed an undeniable talent at the sport, both at Kilbourne and on Wright State’s club team, where he finished his final season as a point-per-game player. In the meantime, he had to meet his health challenges head on, as going into his senior year of high school in 2013 his mother, Jane, donated one of her kidneys to Scott.  

Then came the battle with lymphoma that started five years ago when he was attending classes at Wright State. A recent checkup shows that Humes remains cancer free five years after his diagnosis. 

“Unfortunately, I’ve had a few roadblocks in my life, but that makes me who I am. I couldn’t be more proud of that,” he said. “(The cancer battle) was pretty ugly, but it made me who I am. I couldn’t be happier about it because I wouldn’t have learned some things if it wasn’t for that.” 

Those roadblocks haven’t stopped Humes when it comes to the hockey world. Skating as a forward, he qualified for the American team that competed at the World Deaf Ice Hockey Championship in Amherst, N.Y., in 2017, winning a gold medal with a victory against Canada in the final.  

History sort of repeated itself two years later as Humes and the U.S. team went to Valchiavenna for the 2019 Winter Deaflympics. Humes had a goal against Kazakhstan in the round robin and left with a gold medal as the American team beat Canada against in the final.

Central Ohio native Scott Humes suits up for the U.S. deaf hockey national team at a previous international tournament. He has won gold medals at the World Deaf Ice Hockey Championship in 2017 and the Winter Deaflympics in 2019. COURTESTY OF SCOTT HUMES

Hearing impaired hockey is largely similar to the sports fans are used to seeing, Humes said, with a major difference being strobe lights are installed outside of the rink near the boards that illuminate when a whistle has been blown so that players know the play is dead. In addition, because players can’t communicate on the ice with their voices, vision is a prized asset, which often leads to some impressive plays. 

“I think people most of the time are kind of amazed at how well we work with each other because it’s something we have to do,” Humes said. “You can’t just call out on the ice like, ‘Hey, I’m over here,’ or ‘Back door!’ anything like that. Some of the little things we can do that people don’t realize, sometimes we can make passes people don’t realize, but we just do it because that’s what we’ve had to do all our lives.” 

Humes continues to play rec league hockey in Columbus and could to return to the international stage at some point, though he’s disappointed this year’s World Deaf Ice Hockey Championship, which was scheduled for Vancouver this spring, has been canceled because of the pandemic. The next major international tournament would be the 2023 Winter Deaflympics in Quebec City, and Humes said he’d like to wear the national team’s colors again if the opportunity arises.   

In the meantime, the mantra of Hockey is for Everyone means a lot to Humes, who hopes his brief time in the spotlight at Thursday night’s Blue Jackets game can serve as a reminder to all that the sport can be enjoyed by so many people in so many different ways. 

“I hope people realize that people like me or other disciplines of hockey like sled, amputee, they can pretty much do it all just like I can,” Humes said. “We just have a little difference, but we all share how much we love the game, and that’s really all that matters. I hope people realize that.”