by Jake HookFriday

Owensboro Rampage hockey player Josh Ratusny has a neurological deficit that has caused him to be completely deaf since birth, but he hasn’t allowed the disability to stop him from succeeding in any venture in life.

The Rampage forward was introduced to hockey at age 5 by his Canadian-born father, and he’s been in love with the sport ever since.

“My dad is from Canada and played hockey throughout his young life,” Josh said. “He played hockey at the collegiate level, which brought him down to the U.S. Once my dad started coaching me, I just fell in love with the game.”

Josh was originally tentative to start playing hockey competitively, but his mother, Chris, has always been excited and supportive of anything her son wanted to do.

“We have never been hesitant for him to participate in any sports that he was interested in,” Chris said. “We’ve always been excited and fully supportive of any interests he’s had.”

Even with the support, it wasn’t initially easy for Josh to get used to playing with others without the ability to hear.

“When I was young, I struggled a lot on the ice,” he said. “I wanted to participate, but I felt like I didn’t fit well. I wasn’t always aware of the whistle being blown, and I got some penalties for not stopping.”

But after years of practice, games and hard work, Josh was able to overcome all the challenges he faced on the ice.

“I overcome my challenges by working hard and giving 110 percent every shift,” he said. “Like my dad says, if you get one hit and one shot every shift and get to the puck first, then good things will happen.”

Josh has done more than just overcome his physical disability on the ice — he has dominated it.

He began playing varsity for the Owensboro Rampage when he was a freshman in high school — a large feat for any player — and he was named the offensive player of the year for the Rampage last season.

The prosperity with the Rampage in the rink has helped Josh find confidence and success off the ice.

Chris said hockey has completely enhanced Josh’s life in all aspects including his social interactions and ability to self-advocate.

“Being successful on our team has helped me be more focused and determined, and it has helped me socialize on and off the ice,” Josh said. “It’s also helped me out at work and made me realize how important teamwork is.”

Josh is scheduled to graduate in the spring from Greenwood High School, and he has decided to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to focus on IT. He hopes to continue his hockey career while there.

After everything he’s experienced, Josh wanted to leave a message for any kids out there that have a physical disability and are nervous to participate in a sport.

“There will always be challenges in whatever you do,” Josh said. “You must always stay positive. Stay focused and never let others get you down. There is always a way to succeed. It’s okay to be nervous, but break through with focus and determination. You must never give up, because as soon as you do, you will lose.”