The American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association’s Stan Mikita Hockey School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Celebrates 50 Years

September 7, 2022

In 1973, Chicago Blackhawks Hall of Famer Stan Mikita helped start a hockey school for young players who were deaf or hard of hearing and his namesake camp is going strong into its 50th year and still changing lives.

The American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA) Stan Mikita Hockey School may look like a hockey school, but it feels like a family reunion. “It’s more than hockey. It’s the family atmosphere, it’s the friends – the lifelong friends that you make here,” said school president Kevin Delaney. And while deaf and hard of hearing players from all over the country come together for just one week every summer, many of them keep coming back. Delaney started as a hard of hearing player in the 80’s. Now, he’s the president of the organization.

Launched in 1973, the school was the idea of Chicago businessman Irv Tiahnybik, whose son Lex was discriminated against because he was deaf. Tiahnybik wanted to create a safe place for his son to play hockey, so he enlisted the help of his friend, Mikita. “Irv said to Stan, “Hey, what are you doing this summer?” And Stan said, “I’m playing golf.” He goes, “no, you’re not. You’re running a school.”

The first AHIHA Stan Mikita Hockey School was a tremendous success. Thirty-one deaf and hard of hearing boys from several states ventured to Chicago for a week’s worth of instruction and fun. Tiahnybik was also instrumental in bringing the AHIHA organization into USA Hockey as a disabled discipline.

Over the years, the hockey school has continued to attract new players with many of the early team members returning to the ice as well. The first benefit game between Mikita’s All Stars and the AHIHA Varsity Squad was held in 1975, the second year of the school, and has become a crowd pleaser every year since. In fact, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita skated together again at the 1983 benefit game.

Besides Mikita, many hockey greats have graced the camp with their time over the years such as, Cliff Koroll, Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Keith Magnuson, Grant Mulvey, Chris Chelios and Bobby Orr to name a few.

The U.S. Deaflympic Hockey Team, comprised mainly of members of the Hockey School’s Varsity squad, has won 7 medals, three gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the last five Winter Deaflympic games. Players who have attended AHIHA have gone on to play on high school, prep school, junior leagues, D1 and D3 college teams.

AHIHA is now a self-perpetuating organization with many of the original hockey school students, as well as other professionals like the late Jeff Sauer, David Lassonde, Gene Ubriaco and Tony Granato, assuming AHIHA administrative and coaching positions. As a result, they are guiding and teaching the school’s newest generation of students.

The hockey school will take place in Bensenville, Illinois from June 10th through 17th, 2023 for its 50th year.