Flyers prospect Powell shows determination overcoming hearing disability

Noah Powell

     VOORHEES, N.J. – The speed of hockey is like no other sport and the communication between players must be lightning-quick.

      But what if one player couldn’t hear what another was saying, or worse, if that person with the medical condition had to exchange thoughts with the head coach standing behind him on the bench.

      Well, it is wonderful to report that Flyers prospect Noah Powell has overcome such a disability and finds himself right in the thick of this week’s development camp.

      Powell, 19, was taken in the fifth round (148th overall) of this past weekend’s NHL Draft in Las Vegas. You can see the excitement in his facial expressions as camp gets underway at the Flyers Training Center.

      The 6-foot-1, 210-pound right wing knows what it takes to get by with his condition, since he’s been dealing with it since birth.

      He wears special hearing aids and also reads lips at a very level. From hearing him talk, you would never guess he has this type of handicap.

      “I read lips pretty well,” the Illinois native said on Tuesday. “I do wear hearing aids. Sometimes it’s hard to wear them just because there are a lot of sounds on the ice and it can echo in the ring. But I feel like I’ve gotten better over the years in terms of kind of really listening and hearing what the coaches are saying.”

      Powell played for Dubuque of the USHL last season, registering 43 goals/74 points in 61 games. He has plans to attend Ohio State University in the fall.

      At Tuesday’s press session, Powell explained how he manages to differentiate important sound from background noise in loud arenas.

      “Sometimes it’s kind of double-checking with the coaches or one of the guys around,” Powell said. “It’s kind of paying attention — I really have to focus in and hearing what they are saying so I can execute.

      “I’ve gotten better at reading lips and making sure I’m really paying attention.”

      His communication skills really improved when he played junior hockey and the Flyers were assured that communication would not be an issue.

      “My coach kind of knew where I sat in the locker room during video sessions so I could see his face,” Powell said. “He knew about it (the hearing condition), so he was always taking steps to make sure I heard what I needed to hear and could do the things he was asking of me.”

      Flyers director of player development Riley Armstrong is basically running the show this week. He said he’s very aware of Powell’s condition and praised the player for having such fortitude.

      “I think he’s so in-tune with what’s going on,” Armstrong said. “Maybe partially because of his condition. He’s definitely always paying attention. You can tell, he’s staring at you.

      “We were talking about him in the locker room earlier today how serious he is on the ice. He actually hit me in one of our drills and I felt it. He was one of the few guys who I said, ‘Oh, jeez, this guy is tough!’ But he’s strong. And he’s built pretty good so already at that age to have that level of muscle on his body, it’s pretty impressive.”

      Powell also makes it a point to let coaches and players know when he doesn’t understand something.

      “There’s an open-door policy with us that if he has questions, come up and ask,” Armstrong said. “There’s nothing wrong with asking questions and speaking your mind a little bit. Once guys open that door and get comfortable with us, the questions start to come a little bit more.”

      This looks like one career worth really keeping an eye on.


      Bonk looks impressive: Although the Flyers’ first pick in last year’s draft, Matvei Michkov, has been getting most of the headlines over the past year, their other first-rounder in that draft, Oliver Bonk (22nd overall), has been garnering some headlines of his own.

      The son of former NHL great Radek Bonk played exceptionally well for London of the Ontario Hockey League, notching 24 goals/67 points in 60 games.

      Somewhat secretly, the Flyers are hoping he can make the jump to the NHL within a couple years.

      A defenseman who can also generate offense is always welcome in the Flyers’ family.

      “I’m a more developed, smarter player (than a year ago),” he said. “I think some of the improved offense was the power play started clicking really well. It’s easy when you get a one-timer from five feet away. And I got a lot of trust from my coaches to try the offensive side more.”

      It doesn’t hurt to have a famous father to lean on for support and advice.

      “He said going back is OK because London is a great place,” Bonk said. “You have to put in your head that you don’t want to be back. You want to be here with the big guys.”

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.