1991-92 Pinnacle #398 – Jim Kyte
Despite playing over 10 years in the National Hockey League, former defenseman Jim Kyte was not featured on a lot of hockey cards. However, his accomplishment as the first legally deaf hockey player in the National Hockey League made him an inspiration to hearing-impaired athletes, and merited him a few special subset cards that spoke about his handicap. One such card is from the 1991-92 Pinnacle Hockey set. Incidentally, Kyte did not have a regular card in the set – that is, just a basic card with a photo on one side and statistics on the other. But he was still featured in Pinnacle’s “Pro Sideline” subset, which featured 23 NHL players and their various off-ice passions.
The front of this “Pro Sidelines” card shows four photos of Kyte’s hands “speaking” in sign language, as well as a black and white portrait of the defenseman. The back of the card explains that Kyte overcame deafness to become an NHL player, and that he runs a hockey school for hearing-impaired children:
There are many obstacles to reaching the NHL, but Jim believes no youngster should let impaired hearing deter his desire to succeed in hockey. Jim has overcome a hearing deficiency to establish him as a regular in the pros. To assist others with similar handicaps, he operates a summer hockey school for youngsters in the Toronto area. Jim modeled the sessions after a camp launched by Hall of Famer Stan Mikita in the Chicago area. His message on the front of the card: Hard work brings success.
Kyte’s on-ice contributions may have been limited – 66 points in 598 games – but his off-ice contributions are unparalleled for the way he has increased accessibility of the game to others who share his handicap.
I can appreciate Kyte’s contributions because I have a younger brother who has a hearing disability and wears hearing aids. When my brother was around 10 years old, and wanted to play sports our Dad did not want him to do so because of his handicap. I then brought up the career of Jim Kyte, and how this man could play in the rough-and-tumble game of hockey – and in the NHL, no less! – while wearing hearing aids. That helped to alleviate many fears that my Dad had about my brother playing competitive sports.
Today, Kyte continues his involvement in youth hockey, running the Jim Kyte Hockey School for the Hearing Impaired in his hometown of Ottawa. He was also the co-chair of the volunteer committee for the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships, which were held in Ottawa. After retiring from hockey, Kyte is still working hard to make the game better for others. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.