Jeff Sauer was head coach the US team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics ©Getty Images

Tributes have been paid to Jeff Sauer after the head coach of the gold medal winning United States sled hockey team at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics died.

The 73-year-old had been battling pancreatic cancer and lost his fight against the condition on Thursday (February 2).

After building a career as a head coach of the University of Wisconsin between 1982 to 2002, Sauer took charge of the national team in 2011.

He led them to success at the Winter Paralympics with a 1-0 win over host nation Russia in the final and was still head coach at the time of his death.

“When you talk about positive people that genuinely care, Jeff Sauer is at the top of the list,” said USA Hockey President Jim Smith.

“He’s a giant in our sport overall, but particularly from the USA Hockey perspective, he really made a difference on the advancement and visibility of disabled hockey.”

Steve Cash, the US goaltender at Sochi 2014, was among the many players to pay their respects.

“Coach Sauer epitomised what it meant to be an ambassador, a hero and a role model,” he tweeted.

“I’ve idolised him for several years and will continue to.”

A tribute was also paid by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) chairman Sir Philip Craven, who described Sauer as having an “unshakeable passion” for the sport.

“He was not only committed to getting the best out of his players, but he believed in what they could achieve as individuals and as a collective on and off the ice,” Sir Philip said.

Alongside the Paralympic gold, Sauer also coached the side to victory at three IPC World Championships in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Following the team’s success in Sochi, Sauer was inducted into the US Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.