By: Nathan Engel
Ryan Krajewski grew up in snowy Minnesota where there’s ice and snow on the ground for over half the year. One might think it might be natural that somebody like him would grow up playing hockey. Krajewski, who is 31, has been playing hockey for 27 years.
As Krajewski recalls, he almost quit hockey years ago as a child citing his intolerance to cold temperatures. His parents wouldn’t allow him to quit so easily, encouraging him to stick to hockey. Even to this day, Krajewski hasn’t looked back ever since, continuing to play hockey. This year was supposed to be his third appearance in the Deaflympics as a member of the United States’ hockey team, and Krajewski and his teammates were ready to defend their title. The team knew that there would be a big target on their backs and the U.S. team established a motto – “Back to Back Gold.”
The U.S. men’s hockey coach Jeff Sauer had this to say, “This was a tremendous disappointment to our players. They had worked extremely hard to prepare and I feel we had a very talented team that was ready for success.”
Once Krajewski and his family found out that the Deaflympics was cancelled, “it was extremely disappointing to all of us.” Krajewski did something that some may consider odd. He went ahead to Slovakia with his family.
“For myself and my family, we chose to make the best of a bad situation and vacationed in Europe in spite of the bad news,” Krajewski commented. He, along with his family, decided to go to Vienna and Slovakia to see the places and ended up coming away with enlightened mind and a new perspective on things. He mentioned how the Slovakian people were ashamed of the fact that they fell short in the closing minutes to get the Deaflympics ready.
Krajewski also got the opportunity to meet athletes and fans from other countries who had come to Slovakia in anticipation for the games – they all expressed disappointment, but at the same time they had moved forward and were ready for the 2015 Deaflympics.
“It was uplifting to see that in the face of such disappointment, everyone was able to stay so positive. It really is a testament to the great people that make up the deaf sports community. As for our hockey team, we are still the defending gold-medal champions and we are as committed as ever to defending our title the next time around,” Krajewski said.
At the same time Krajewski admitted that four years from now, his participation in the 2015 Deaflympics isn’t such a sure thing as it was this year. He works as a mental health practitioner in a treatment facility for at-risk youth and also manages a local hockey arena, operating the youth hockey association. He also plans on getting married and potentially having children by then, moving forward with his life. But at the same time down the road, Krajewski would love nothing more than to play in the next Deaflympics, representing the stars and the stripes of the United States of America.