When Luke Peinado ’22 is playing hockey, everything falls into place. Doctors diagnosed Peinado with partial to severe hearing loss in both ears at the age of three, and he followed his older brother into the sport when he was five. For the Fourth Former, the cocoon of the rink helps him track the rhythms of the game.
"I started playing with hearing aids on, but I realized I don't need them," says Peinado, a member of the JV hockey team. “The environment I'm in will determine if I hear well or not. In a hockey rink, there's glass, and all the sound echoes off it. I can hear people a lot easier.”
Peinado will now represent the United States in international competition as the youngest member of the U.S. Deaflympics Ice Hockey team. The Illinois teen and his 22 teammates from 14 states will play in Valtellina Valchiavenna, Italy, December 12-21, against Canada, Finland, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Ice hockey is one of six winter sports represented in this International Committee of Sports for the Deaf-hosted, and International Olympic Committee (IOC)-sanctioned event. The Deaflympics originated in 1924 when the Paralympics excluded deaf athletes. Rules prohibit athletes from using hearing aids during competition. Since the Deaflympics added ice hockey in 1975, Team USA has medaled at six games, winning two gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively.
Competing in the Deaflympics is a pinnacle of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA) program. The Evanston, Illinois-based organization has served the deaf and hard of hearing hockey community for 46 years. "They come in as mites and keep playing through college as I did," explains AHIHA president, Kevin Delaney, an alumnus of the youth program. “When you are a kid, you look up to the older players. You want to represent the deaf community.” Delaney, who also serves as the skating and skills development coach for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, has coached Peinado through the years at AHIHA training camps. “He just brings good skill and good knowledge to the game,” remarks Delaney. “He’s able to compete and make plays with the older kids and be a contributor on the ice.”
Before coming to St. Paul’s School, Peinado made the two-hour round-trip commute from his home near Chicago to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to play for the AAA Milwaukee Junior Admirals. In addition to his commitment to the SPS hockey program, Peinado maintains a similar routine, playing a split season with the Northern Cyclones U16 AAA 40 minutes down the road in Nashua, N.H.
"What has always impressed me about Luke is his love of the game," says his JV hockey coach, Matt Soule '77. "Hockey is more than a sport he enjoys; it is his passion. He lives for being on the ice with his teammates, competing hard but always having fun, whether it be practice or games. I am sure he is embracing the Deaflympic Team with the same mindset and attitude.”