Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series underway at Amherst’s Northtown Center

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — The hockey hotbed of Western New York is once again hosting a world-class showcase. This weekend’s inaugural Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series has brought six teams representing four countries to compete at Amherst’s Northtown Center.

“They are at the top of their class when it comes to their sport,” tournament director Stephen Smart said. “Most of these kids have played in the Deaflympics or World Games.”

Patrick Kaleta, the Angola native and former Sabres winger who spoke at Wednesday’s opener ceremony, said the Buffalo-Niagara region is an ideal stage to showcase such an event.

“Western New York lives and breathes hockey,” Kaleta said. “And in my opinion, this event is as important as any other hockey in Western New York. And my job as a Buffalonian is to welcome them and give them a sneak preview of what Buffalo is all about.”

The series running Thursday and through Sunday [see schedule below] is put on by American Hearing-Impaired Hockey Association, and the Stan Mikita Hockey School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

It honors the late Jeff Sauer, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member who spent more than 40 years coaching at the collegiate and international level. Don Granato’s coach at University of Wisconsin, Sauer led the U.S. National Sled Hockey team to gold medals at the Paralympics. A past president of the AHIHA, Sauer selected the past five U.S. Deaflympic teams, and at three Winter Deaflympics, winning the gold medal in 2007.

“Jeff devoted his life to hockey, really making it a game for everyone,” former Sabres defenseman and Wisconsin alum Jake McCabe said in a video shown at the opening ceremony.

“A former Badger like myself, it’s super fitting that it’s named for him,” added McCabe, who now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I know the fans in Western New York love hockey and will be out there supporting you all.”

The series features men’s teams from the U.S., Canada, Czech Republic and Finland, along with women’s teams from the U.S. and Canada. The women’s teams will give a clinic at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf on Friday.

Greeting players and families after his remarks at the opening ceremony, Kaleta was flattered by their eagerness.

“You have people from across he pond over there in Europe that are playing hockey,” he said. “And for me it’s pretty special to be able to have somebody want to take a picture with you because of where you played.”

Katelyn Koester, a St. Mary’s graduate who played club hockey for Niagara University, told Kaleta she was a fan of his.

“There’s an athlete here playing for the U.S.A. from Buffalo, she’s a huge fan of mine,” Kaleta concluded. “But this week,” Kaleta said, “I am going to be her No. 1 fan.”

Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series schedule

  • Thursday: Team Canada (Women) vs. Team USA, 1 p.m.

  • Thursday: Team USA (Men) vs. Team Czechia, 3:15 p.m.

  • Thursday: Team Canada (M) vs. Team Finland, 6 p.m.

  • Friday: Team USA (M) vs. Team Finland, 1 p.m.

  • Friday: Team USA (W) vs. Team Canada, 3:15 p.m.

  • Friday: Team Czechia (M) vs. Team Canada, 6 p.m.

  • Saturday: Team Canada (M) vs. Team USA, 1 p.m.

  • Saturday: Team Finland (M) vs. Team Czechia, 3:15 p.m.

  • Saturday: Team USA (W) vs. Team Canada, 6 p.m.

  • Sunday: Men’s Bronze Medal Game, 9 a.m.

  • Sunday: Men’s Gold Medal Game, 11:30 a.m.

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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