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January 28, 2003

Alternative to ref's whistle works well for deaf

From: Waterloo Record, Canada - 28 Jan 2003

Tuesday January 28, 2003

When Matt Grennier hears the whistle blow, he's grateful.

The Kitchener Ranger forward, whose older brother Bryan has been more than 90 per cent deaf since birth, knows from watching his sibling that being able to hear is a blessing.

"We take for granted just listening when some people have to actually try to listen," said Grennier, a 19-year-old centre from Dryden, about four hours west of Thunder Bay.

"(Bryan) grew up doing that a lot."

Grennier recalls how Bryan -- a good lip reader and a strong defenceman who is preparing to represent Canada in ice hockey at the Winter Deaflympic Games Feb. 26-Mar. 9 in Sundsvall, Sweden -- struggled in English and French class trying to comprehend his teachers' instructions.

Since Bryan was oldest, it really wasn't an issue at home for his younger brothers Blair and Matt, both of whom have full hearing.

"We were used to it," said Grennier, prior to yesterday's Ranger practice at the Aud in preparation for tomorrow night's Ontario Hockey League game in Owen Sound. "When I was born he was already five and into his routine. I just accepted it."

Outside of the home, Grennier said it wasn't always easy for his oldest brother, especially on the ice.

"Coming from a small town, he was the only deaf (kid) even close to his age," Grennier said. "Playing (hockey) with normal kids, it was tough for him. A couple of times he would hit guys after a whistle he didn't hear."

Now that Bryan, 23, is playing hockey for the deaf, that's not an issue. Grennier says deaf hockey's alternative to the whistle is quite effective.

"They have a little Christmas light thing around the boards," Grennier explained. "When the ref blows the whistle, the lights light up. So (the players) aren't running around taking each other's heads off after the whistle."

As for the quality of Bryan's play? Last April, Bryan helped the Western Prairies team beat Ontario 6-2 to win the national deaf ice hockey championship in Winnipeg.

"I always knew my brother was a good player," said Grennier, who attended the championships after the Rangers lost out to Guelph in the OHL playoffs last year. "It's good hockey."

Grennier, who suffered back spasms after falling into the boards in practice last week, missed Friday's 11-2 win over Erie but hopes to play tomorrow.


Grennier and Ranger teammates Marcus Smith and Steve Eminger checked out York University's 10-1 ice hockey win over Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo on Saturday.

All three have older brothers who play for York: Blair Grennier, Julian Smith and ex-Ranger John Eminger.

Julian Smith had a goal and two assists for York while Eminger and Grennier, a 21-year-old former Jr. B Cambridge Winter Hawk, had no points.

Former Ranger Sal Lettieri had a hat trick for York while Kitchener native and former OHL goalie Derek Dolson made 25 saves for the win.


Defenceman Thomas Harrison, who's missed a month since he "over-extended" his left knee during a fight, could return to the lineup as the OHL-leading Rangers gun for their fifth-straight win in Owen Sound tomorrow. Harrison, who's been fitted with a brace, hopes to play tomorrow.


The Rangers three silver medal winners from the world junior championships -- Derek Roy, Gregory Campbell and Steve Eminger -- will be signing autographs at Sportco Source for Sports on King Street on Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m.

© The Record 2003