WINNIPEG - Former Winnipeg Jet, Jim Kyte, has received plenty of recognition over his lifetime - especially during his 17-year NHL career. It continued on Friday night.
Kyte attended the 2019 Possibilities Gala presented by Bison Transport, for DASCH (Direct Action in Support of Community Homes Inc.) as the guest of honour. DASCH is a non-profit organization established in 1974 dedicated to exploring and meeting the residential, day program, respite and foster care needs of youth and adults living with developmental disabilities. Kyte received the Annual Recognition Award for his outstanding contributions to people with developmental disabilities.
"Because I'm the only deaf player in the history of the National Hockey League, people in the disability community look to me as a bit of a role model for the possibilities of what people can do," Kyte told JetsTV on Friday afternoon.
"I love the fact it's called the Possibilities Gala because I'm so-called 'disabled'. I don't really like the word because everybody has a level of ability. I look at it as - I have a challenge but it shouldn't disable me from doing anything I put my mind too. You have to work extra-hard, you have to look at things a little differently. You need to advocate for yourself."
Kyte's include co-founding the Canadian Hearing Impaired Hockey Association and running the Jim Kyte Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired for the last eight years.
The 55-year-old learned about DASCH during the 2016 Heritage Classic celebrations in Winnipeg from fellow Jets alumni Jordy Douglas and on top of that, Kyte has a son on the autism spectrum.
"What DASCH does really resonates with me on a personal level because any parent who has a child, you give them the education, you give them the tools to succeed in life," said Kyte.
"But when you are a parent of a child with an intellectual or adaptive disability, then you always wonder what's going to happen your child when you are gone. It's one of the things that keeps most parents up at night. The fact that an organization like DASCH is in the Winnipeg community lets parents like me sleep better at night. From providing the support that they require whether its living arrangements, employment, the spiritual, emotional resiliency that they need. They are a special organization and any community in my mind is judged on how they deal with and how they support the people who have difficulty advocating for themselves."
When you hear some of Kyte's stories from his NHL days, you can understand why he is looked upon with such high regard for overcoming his challenges on a daily basis to play almost 600 games.
"Playing in the National Hockey League is extremely difficult to do and so you never want to give anybody an excuse not to hire you. I always said, 'I'm hard of hearing, I'm hard of hearing' but in actual fact I am profoundly deaf," said Kyte who lost his hearing at the age of three.
"I have a 100 decibel loss on a scale of 115. I get by by lip reading and very powerful amplification in my hearing aids. Every team that I played for (Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Ottawa and San Jose) there was only so much I could do to adjust to them. I needed some help from them so I had to educate coaches how to speak to me. For instance, you can't start speaking to me and then turn your back to me during white board work."
Equally impressive is how Kyte used his other senses to get by on the ice.
"I vividly remember being in Edmonton and being on the offensive blue line and I always subconsciously counted (opposition players) '1, 2, 3, 4, 5' making sure that there were five white jerseys in front of me. In my era, the home team wore the white jersey," explained Kyte.
"So I'm counting '1,2,3'4, where's the fifth jersey?' and there is Glenn Anderson behind me sneaking to try and get a breakaway pass. My bench is yelling at me and I can't hear them. But I just knew that things didn't add up in front of me so where is that fifth guy? If I could hear perfectly I would have just heard the guys on the bench and I wouldn't have to count. That's what I talk about, I did things differently but still had the same results."
Kyte has been back to Manitoba capital many times, but the feeling always remains the same.
"There's a sense of feeling like you've come back home. I played for the Jets for seven years or I was with the organization for seven years," said Kyte.
"It was my first NHL team - and I played for five of them - but everybody remembers me as a Winnipeg Jet. I have some fond memories here; I owned two different homes. First I lived in Tuxedo with Dale (Hawerchuk), I lived with Dave Ellett down in Osbourne Village and then Dave bought a house in River Heights, etc. I still have a lot of friends here and Winnipeg will always be close to my heart."