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08-13-2005, 10:25 AM
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Location: Windsor, ON
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Downie at the junior camp

Not being able to hear roar of the crowd doesn't stop junior hockey player

Jim Morris
Canadian Press

Friday, August 12, 2005

WHISTLER, B.C. (CP) - It's something Steve Downie loves. Going into the corner, delivering a big hit, getting the fans on their feet cheering.

The compact forward from the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League likes looking around the arena after a big play and seeing the crowd's reaction because he can't always hear it.

Downie, 18, is deaf in his right ear. Off the ice he wears a hearing aid discretely tucked into his ear but removes it to play hockey. His own linemates at this week's national junior team development camp were surprised when told of Downie's hearing problem.

"I can hear but not very well," said the Queensville, Ont., resident.

"I just play. I don't listen to anything. I just use my senses."

Downie was a late addition to the 44 players at the camp who hope to make the team that will defend Canada's gold medal at the world junior championship which begins Dec. 26 in Vancouver.

When Sidney Crosby, the first player taken in last month's NHL draft, elected to skip Whistler and attend a Pittsburgh Penguins orientation camp instead, Hockey Canada officials called Downie.

"I was a little surprised," said Downie, picked 29th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the draft.

"The team was already picked and I didn't think I was going to come. I got a call last week saying there is a spot open and I jumped at it."

Coach Brent Sutter liked what he heard about Downie from assistant coach Craig Hartsburg, whose Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds faced the Spitfires in the first round of the playoffs.

"Craig said he was a real pain," said Sutter.

"Those are the type of players you love to have on your team and you hate playing against. Who knows. Here's a kid that may be a late addition but might be on the team come Christmas time."

Downie is a power forward crammed into a five-foot-10, 189-pound frame. On the ice he's like a rubber ball, bouncing off someone along the boards, using his quickness to find the open space in front of the net.

He has a quick, accurate shot, is a creative playmaker and the only fear he has on the ice being afraid he hasn't worked hard enough.

"I bring a lot of intensity," said Downie, who led the Spitfires with 52 assists and 179 penalty minutes in 61 games last year.

"I'm a hard worker and I love the corners. I'm a physical type of player. I love the fans yelling at me. I love that kind of play."

Downie has known adversity in his life. When he was seven, his father John was driving him to hockey practice early one snowy winter morning when the car was involved in an accident.

Steve Downie wasn't injured but his father died in the crash.

"That was tough," Downie said.

He was 13 years old when his hearing on the right side began to fail.

"It just slowly left," Downie said.

I just started not being able to hear. Watching TV, I ended up with the TV full blast. Then I realized I had a problem."

Sutter said Downie's hearing problem isn't "a big deal."

"He's a pretty smart player," said Sutter.

"He picks up things pretty good. I'm aware he had this but it's not noticeable."

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