PEORIA, Ill. — He is the athletic trainer for the Peoria Rivermen but Max Finley’s job the next two weeks is to help the U.S. win a gold medal.
“As a kid it was kind of a dream of mine to play professional hockey,” Finley said. “This is my professional hockey, representing the United States. There’s nothing greater than representing your country.”
The Dunlap High School grad is playing for Team USA in the Deaflympics in Italy this week. He made the national team after tryouts in Buffalo earlier this year.
Due to complications from meningitis, he lost his hearing when he was five-years-old. But he never lost his love to play hockey.
He frequently puts on his skates and is on the ice with the Rivermen in practice.
“He’s a part of the team and doesn’t mind talking about (being deaf). For him it’s normal. He’s been deaf since he was five,” said Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel. “We don’t see him as Max with the disability. We see him as Max our (athletic trainer). He is phenomenal at his job and he is phenomenal for our hockey team.”
Finley wears Cochlear implants so he hears very well and he speaks very well. But he admits the communication is different when he’s on the ice with his deaf teammates.
“When we are on the ice, most of us can’t hear anything. We use interpreters on the bench during games and practices to help us communicate,” Finley said.
He’s away from his job with the Rivermen for two weeks. He hopes to come back from Italy with a gold medal from the Deaflympics.
“Hopefully, we can go over there and do our job, with all the hard work we need to do,” Finley said. “It will be fun once we have that gold medal around our necks.”