Hearing loss is no handicap, says NHL player

PITTSBURGH-Trailing three games to one in its first round match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be facing elimination when it takes the ice here Saturday (April 23).

If there’s one player on the team suited to help lead Tampa Bay back from the brink, it may be right wing Steve Downie, who has been overcoming long odds most of his life.

Downie, 24,  has been deaf in his right ear since age 11, the result of otosclerosis brought on by chronic ear infections. Since being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005, he has worn a hearing aid in his right ear.

You might think that would cause him to shy away from the rough and tumble of NHL play. But, in fact, he’s earned a reputation as one of the league’s more combative players. And, even though from time to time his hearing aid pops out of his ear during an on-ice fight, Downie insists his hearing loss is not a handicap.

Because of a one-game suspension for a rough hit in game 3, he missed the fourth game of the series, a 3-2 double-overtime loss to the Pens. That makes him all the more determined to keep his team alive when play resumes tomorrow.