There is no higher honor in sports than being able to play for your country. To wear the colors of red, white, and blue while you put everything on the line is something that most people can only dream of. Not MSOE Raiders hockey student-athlete Garrett Gintoli, though. Gintoli, a junior mechanical engineering major, has been able to don a USA sweater for the past four international events for the deaf community. This includes the past two Winter Deaflympics, a competition organized in 1924 by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf and sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee. Gintoli has been a powerful presence on the ice and has plenty of hardware to show for his efforts.
Gintoli was born with a syndrome called Melnick-Fraser syndrome. One of the effects is progressive hearing loss which forced him to start wearing hearing aids around the age of three. His hearing has deteriorated from there, but that hasn’t stopped him from excelling in the sport that he loves. There have been some challenges along the way, however. “Growing up with hearing loss on the ice definitely caused some issues. Sometimes a coach would be saying something from all the way across the rink, whether it be from the bench during a game or during a practice, and those instructions were tough to hear,” said Gintoli. “Another challenge when learning the game was dealing with not being able to hear communication from my teammates on the ice. I have had to adapt by trying to always know where everyone else was when I had the puck so I can see who I needed to pass to, rather than waiting for someone to call for it.” Hockey is a team sport and Gintoli is thankful for those who helped make the game easier for him. “I have been very fortunate to have had great teammates throughout my playing career who would always fill me in on things I missed.”
Having already won a bronze medal at the 2015 Winter Deaflympics and a gold medal at the 2017 World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships, Gintoli was ready to take home another medallion when he travelled to in Valtellina Valchiavenna, Italy for the 2019 Winter Deaflympics competition in December. The MSOE junior forward just didn’t play in it, he was also deemed an alternate captain and played side by side with his brother Peter who was the team’s leader. As for the actual competition? They won the gold medal by beating Canada 7-3.
“I think we knew we had a good squad and we made sure we were doing the right things on and off the ice to be able to compete at a high level for two whole weeks. We had an incredible staff that worked really hard to make things easy for us, so we could focus on winning games. That work ended up paying off, so that felt good.”
Gintoli scored one goal and had three assists in the championship game and ruminated about winning the top honor for his country. “It’s pretty tough to describe how it felt to win gold for the USA. I think it truly hit me when I saw them raise the flag and play the anthem. I couldn’t have sung it louder if I tried. Not a lot of people get the chance to represent their country, so I was proud that we were able win a gold medal with our opportunity. It’s a feeling I’ll cherish forever.”
His season wasn’t over with the final horn in Italy. He came back to the states to help finish off the 2019-20 season for the Raiders. Even if things didn’t go as planned during the season for the Red & White, Gintoli still had a wealth of experience to carry over into the games played within the confines of the Kern Center and beyond. “I tried to carry back some of the confidence I gained from the tournament when I resumed play with the guys. I definitely felt the love from my teammates and coaches, which I really appreciated,” Gintoli said. “That gave me a big confidence boost when I returned to the ice. After that, it was back to business as usual.”
There was one thing that wasn’t business as usual for Gintoli. “When the anthem would play before our games, I’d think back to singing the anthem with my teammates in Italy and that always brought a smile to my face.”