St. Clair Shores native Stewart DeLange earned a silver medal for Team USA in the Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series.

St. Clair Shores native Stewart DeLange earned a silver medal for Team USA in the Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series.

Photo provided by Megan Isenbarger Photography

Stewart DeLange: An enforcer on the ice, an inspiration off of it

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 19, 2024

 Stewart DeLange celebrates after scoring a goal against Finland.

Stewart DeLange celebrates after scoring a goal against Finland.

Photo provided by Megan Isenbarger Photography


ST. CLAIR SHORES — If you’re playing beer league hockey in the Troy or Port Huron area right now, you may have come across a young man who enjoys the physicality of hockey and occasionally drops the gloves.

The trash talk doesn’t faze him, and if anything, trash talking someone who is 6 foot 4 without skates is probably not the best business decision.

“I was always one of the bigger guys on the team, so people assumed I would naturally want to check, especially when I played defense,” Stewart DeLange said. “I guess I fell into the role, and it stuck.”

DeLange is a St. Clair Shores native and St. Clair Shores Lakeview graduate, who is completely deaf, and he’s also a silver medalist for Team USA in the Jeff Sauer International Deaf Hockey Series.

From April 11-14 in Buffalo, New York, DeLange, 20, competed alongside 19 other deaf/hard of hearing players as they took the silver medal in a 5-4 loss to Canada. The tournament features a national team for Canada, Finland and Czechia.

DeLange is all too familiar with most of his Team USA teammates, who he’s been competing with at a hockey camp in Chicago for the hearing impaired since he was 8 years old.

So when he received an email stating he had made the team based off of his tryout in August 2023, DeLange said he was excited to share the ice with his friends.

“I enjoy playing with my hard of hearing friends from camp,” DeLange said. “Communication between players is easier because a lot of them know ASL. I keep in touch with them between camp.”

DeLange, who does not wear a hearing aid, put on an impressive performance over the weekend slate at the center position, tallying two assists and a goal as Team USA beat Czechia 12-0 and Finland 8-3.

“I was excited to play against the other teams,” DeLange said. “It was fun seeing and playing with my friends. The competition was tough, so to score a goal against Finland was an amazing feeling.”

Sometimes, there’s just sports we’re born to do, and hockey seemed to always be in the cards for DeLange.

Growing up a massive Red Wings fan — his favorite player is Pavel Datsyuk — and into a family with a passion for hockey, DeLange’s mother, Erika DeLange, said hockey was something that her son latched onto early.

“We’re a hockey family,” Erika DeLange said. “We grew up with hockey and love the Red Wings. My father-in-law is associated with the Red Wing alumni, so I have a great picture of Stewart when he’s, like, on skates for the very first time at 3 years old, and it’s in the middle of Joe Louis Arena on the circle, and he’s holding my husband’s hand because he couldn’t skate very well at 3.”

From age 6-13, DeLange played hockey with his father, Jeff DeLange, as the head coach, helping Stewart find his footing in the sport.

With line changes, ref whistles because of stoppages, and everything in-between in the sport, DeLange said having his father to lean on was helpful in his progression.

“He was able to interpret for me during practice and games while coaching,” DeLange said. “It helped me to understand the game.”

By the time high school hockey came around, DeLange was able to have an interpreter, Michael Colton, alongside him on the bench.

DeLange, a 2022 graduate from Lakeview, was primarily a defenseman/forward during his three-year tenure for St. Clair Shores Unified, winning a Macomb Area Conference White league title. On Unified, he was just another one of the guys, and the players treated him as such, especially when DeLange would show the players some curse words in sign language.

“The kid is hilarious,” St. Clair Shores Unified coach Nick Radjewski said. “If he wanted to tell someone to f-off, you knew it. You could understand what he was saying, and he wasn’t shy about doing it. If you were to ever come and watch us play and you weren’t familiar with Stew’s situation, you’d have no idea he’s deaf. I think one time in three years that we had him he hit someone after the whistle, and it was bang, bang. It was always kind of amazing.”

DeLange credits his interpreter for helping him along the way, but he had the impressive visual skills to see the reflection of the refs raising their arms in the glass to know a penalty or stoppage had occurred.

But as impressive as DeLange was on the ice, it was the awareness he brought to the forefront for deaf athletes that was immeasurable.

Courtesy of Erika DeLange and St. Clair Shores Unified, a deaf awareness night was held on Jan. 6, 2022, in a matchup between SCS Unified and Utica Unified at St. Clair Shores Civic Arena.

Parents and children who have never attended a SCS Unified game before made their way to the rink because of DeLange and what he represented — inspiration for themselves and/or their children.

“It was great to see the community response that night,” Stewart DeLange said. “There were a few younger kids that attended. I hope that I encouraged them to try hockey.”

“We actually had families that showed up that had children with a hearing loss just to talk to us about how we got him into sports and what they needed to know moving forward, and these were younger kids, like elementary-age kids,” Erika DeLange said. “It was really cool to see them come out and know that, ‘Yeah, you can play a sport for your high school.’”

DeLange now spends his time working at Miller Marina in St. Clair Shores and competing in fishing tournaments as part of the Michigan-Ontario Muskie Club. He first got into fishing with his father.

He’s not only a hockey medalist and representative of hockey in the United States, but also an inspiration for athletes/children everywhere representing the deaf community.

As beautiful of a symbol as he’s been for the sport of hockey, DeLange said the sport itself has brought so much to his life.

“Hockey helped me become disciplined and organized, which in turn has helped me to understand the game,” DeLange said.