Written by Roy Hysen:
When I received the sad news from Chris Bradley, the ICSD ice hockey director, it took me a while to compose myself. I remember approximately 35 years ago when Irv Tiahnybik, and Stan Mikita, a former Chicago Black Hawks great and founder of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA) invited me to their annual hockey camp in Glendale, Illinois. Irv’s son Lex was deaf, and was playing as a goaltender for the USA Deaflympic Hockey team. Jeff came up to me and welcomed me warmly, shaking my hand. Irv had recruited several outstanding coaching staff: some from the NCAA, American Hockey Leagues and the NHL. Jim Kyte was also invited along with me. It was Irv, Cheryl Hager, and Jeff, who helped us to establish a hockey program here in Canada similar to the AHIHA.
During my visit to Illinois, Jeff explained that my role was to work with the young goaltenders to develop leadership both on and off the ice. I was treated extremely well by the staff. During a recent exhibition game between the US Deaflympic team and our team in Kitchener, Ontario, it was great to reunite with some of the US staff that I hadn’t seen for 30 years, including Rich Dumas, former coach of USA Team and also a former WHA goaltender with the Chicago Cougars. I was thrilled to see several members of the AHIHA. It was wonderful of our head coach Don McKee to invite all the AHIHA staff back to his home after the game. Jeff and I had a lengthy discussion about the future of International Deaf hockey and also of the competitive spirit between our team and the USA Team.
Jeff Sauer was one of the finest gentlemen in the hockey world. He had over 665 career wins under the NCAA. In addition, he coached the USA women’s hockey team, as well as the sledge ice hockey team at the Paralympics, and won the gold medal during the 2007 Winter Deaflympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. We often met after the game. Not once did he criticize our team or me: “Good game, good team, Roy”. He asked if our team was going to improve in the future? I reminded him that I worked and learned from Viktor Tikhonov many years ago in Moscow. Tikhonov once told me through an interpreter that the team always improves from one area to the next; that there was always room for improvement. He agreed with me and we wished each other well. We continued to communicate with each other for many years.
Jeff was a great coach and a better man; he was always friendly to anyone who approached him and often I had met with him during the deaf ice hockey meetings during the Winter Deaflympic games. The NCAA initiated the introduction of a demo hockey game for deaf women that will be taking place for the first time, April 2017 in Buffalo, NY, during the 3rd World Deaf Hockey Championships. Jeff played a key role in getting this organized. Deaf ice hockey team managers, coaches and staff all acknowledged his impressive and extensive hockey experience; nobody challenged him about the IIHF ice hockey regulations and rules. He was named to the USA Hockey Hall of fame and received numerous additional awards of his outstanding contribution to US Hockey. He cared so much for his players over the years. His presence will be missed at the upcoming World Deaf Hockey Championships in Buffalo in April.
The Canada Deaf Ice Hockey Federation (CDIHF) board and committee join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to his wife Jamie and family.
Rest in Peace, my friend.
February 4th 2017