“Our team is a combination of experienced international players and a group of young, very talented players that should develop and contribute quickly,” said USA head coach Jeff Sauer in a press release.
The team, which will train at RPI in Albany, N.Y., before leaving for Finland, operates under the guidelines of the USA Deaf Sports Federation. All athletes must have a hearing loss of at least 55 decibels in their better ear. No hearing aids or cochlear implants are allowed to be used while playing.
Wonoski attended the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association in Chicago, where the team (23 players from 13 states) was picked. Now in its 40th year, the AHIHA is a nonprofit organization that was founded by former NHL great Stan Mikita and Chicago businessman Irv Tiahnybik; former NHLer and current Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato now hosts the camp/tryouts.
“This biggest thing about this tournament is being with all the players from across the country again,” said Wonoski, who was an assistant captain for the Division 1 club hockey team at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “Playing hockey and meeting other people are the best parts of the trip.”
Wonoski has a history of scoring big goals. Back at the 2007 Deaflympics in Salt Lake City, he had the game-winning goals against both Canada and Finland to help his team win gold.
He plays in a men’s Senior League North of Boston and also is an assistant coach in the Beverly Youth Hockey program.
“I coach the Bantams and try to make them better hockey players,” Wonoski said. “I really enjoy working with kids, and they look up to me. I’ve made some good friendships in Beverly Youth Hockey.”
Beverly High hockey coach Bob Gilligan is a neighbor of the Wonoski family and has watched Mike grow up from the time he began skating on the pond.