Lum refuses to let hearing be a handicap
The will to win, no matter what the challenge, defines Danica Lum.
From a precocious seven-year-old lacing up her skates for the first time, Lum has always embraced opportunity. Nothing it seems—even a hearing disability—has been able to deter her from pursuing her goals.
Armed with that confidence, Lum, 18, is set to tend goal for Team B.C. at the upcoming 2014 Canadian Deaf Ice Hockey Championship April 24 to 26 in Mississauga, Ont.
“I cannot find words for what it means to represent Richmond and B.C. as a whole in the Hysen Cup,” she said. “Being one of two goaltenders is a huge responsibility and one that I gladly take upon myself. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I just hope I can meet the standards and the high level of play to truly represent West Coast hockey.”
Lum, who lists former Calgary Flame Miikka Kiprusoff as her favourite stopper—”at the time he played in the NHL he was a pretty awesome goalie, his consistency and percentage setting a standard for goalies today”—was initially a forward but ended up filling in for a teammate and discovered she enjoyed being in net more.
“It was a fluke,” she said. “My main sport was box lacrosse but I found myself missing the physical aspect of sports during the winter season so I started playing hockey to kind of fill my time and the exercise at the same time. Thinking back, I’m glad I got into hockey.”
Lum especially likes the pre- and post-game rituals as much as the actual game itself. She looks forward to the locker room chats and getting to know each of her teammates better. But above all else is the desire to win.
“I always like to win. The final score is quite important,” she said. “But I also love the challenge every game brings and every time I’m on the ice the mindset is the same and the adrenaline runs through me.”
While uncomfortable with the idea of rating her own skills, Lum admits persistence is one of her best qualities.
“I never give up and try to stay consistent throughout the game,” she said. “My short stint as a skater allowed me to view things from a player’s perspective. It’s hard for team members to rely on a goaltender that isn’t on their game.”
Lum also refuses to use her hearing disability as a crutch. She said since her impairment was discovered early in her life, it hasn’t affected how she interacts with others or her learning ability.
“I can speak fluently and pronounce the words accordingly, however it is sometimes hard to make out words especially if the vowels sound similar,” she said. “But with experience and trial and error, I have taught myself to pick up sounds before and after and infer the actual word.”
Lum said such a condition doesn’t need to hinder anyone’s life goals.
“People achieve things through hand work, right?,” she said. “It’s not any different for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The concept is still the same, just with a little bump in the road that everyone impaired overcomes in their own way. People with any type of disability can achieve greatness.”
Lum, whose favourite current NHLer is Sidney Crosby—”because he leads by example, and actions always speak louder than words”—still has some lofty hockey goals, but said no mater what happens she’ll continue to enjoy the game.
“I have always been an in-the-moment type of person when it comes to sports,” she said. “There are millions of people who play hockey but only a few who actually play professionally. I have set my sights high, but no so high that if things don’t work out I’ll be disappointed.”
Lum played minor hockey for Team B.C. coach Jim Schuck and the latter is happy to have the opportunity to coach her again.
“I coached her in Bantam C and she was a good goalie then,” Schuck said. “When she maintains her focus she’s an extremely good goalie.”
Earlier this season, Team B.C. played an exhibition game against a team consisting of several former Richmond Sockeyes. After the game, they kept raving about Lum.
“She was making second and third saves,” said Shuck. “We get a lot of comments like that. Danica is a very good athlete and her ability to rebound from a bad game is amazing. She has a great sense of humour about stuff and doesn’t stress. There’s no doubt in my mind she could have played at an even higher level (in minor hockey).”
Additionally, said Shuck, Lum is a respected teammate who gets on well with her peers.
Team B.C. will leave Wednesday for the national championships, competing against two Ontario teams (one also drawing players from Quebec and the Maritimes) and Team West made up of players from the three Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Players will be scouted at the tournament for possible selection to a Canadian team for next year’s world Deaflympics in Russia.
“Of course winning gold is our aim, but our (more realistic) goal is to compete with the Ontario-based teams and gauge where our program is at on the national level,” said Schuck. “They’re dominant through sheer numbers.”
Schuck said it’s a testament to B.C. that it has been able to field a team, and is confident with a young lineup it will be well-positioned for future success.
“We now have at least 10 good, young players in the system that won’t even be among the 15 players going to nationals because they’re still at the Peewee and Bantam A level and aren’t old enough yet to participate,” he said. “And by no means are we close to being done finding players from around the province to play on future teams.”
The minimum age to play at nationals in 18.
Schuck, a Richmond resident and longtime local coach, got involved with the provicial deaf ice hockey program two years ago at the request of longtime friend Gerry Mayzes, whose son is captain of this year’s team.
“He asked me for my involvement and the condition resonated with me because my mom went deaf later in life,” said Schuck. “It also appealed to me because this is really the development of a program and a real learning experience for me coming in. What we take for granted is amazing. Most of us are fortunate enough to hear the game, and we don’t think about how much it is a big part of things. Deaf players don’t have the luxury, so they need to rely much more on their visual senses. When we’re teaching we, as coaches, need to take a step back to really communicate with players to understand how they are perceiving the game.”