To the Saint Ignatius hockey program,
Tears will flow as I write this. They will flow like the memories. They will flow like the water pressure from the right sink in locker room D where I filled thousands of blue powerade bottles.
This team was special. Now that official word has come that this season is over, it is time for reflection on the greatness of the 2019-20 Saint Ignatius hockey team. This team ran deep: 24 players with tons of skill and love for each other, six coaches who have worked together for years and have a genuine care for their players, and six managers along for the ride to witness greatness.
Everyone loved and cared about each other. Years from now, when I look back on this team, that is what will stick out to me most. The bond was formed by a group of individuals that became one. At the end of every huddle, the captains would yell “we all we got” which was met by a response of “we all we need” which then followed a “Family on 3, 1-2-3 Family!” These teenagers found something more than themselves to care about and truly became a family.
I have been fortunate enough to spend the last four (in reality, more like 16) winters of my life around this team. Along with Pat Keane, I have been fortunate enough to broadcast every game that this team has played. Even the longest tenured players, senior captains Michael Boehm and Greg Langermeier, we saw debut. Truly from day one, we have been blessed to watch the high school hockey careers of every one of these players. Sadly, the seniors were not able to see through to their final goal.
But as I think more and more about that final goal – the 2020 OHSAA Ice Hockey State Championship trophy – I realize that wasn’t the goal. I would have loved nothing more than to celebrate on the ice at Nationwide Arena with this group, having watched them achieve their goal. But, as I think more and more about it, I realize that the reason I cried at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center on Thursday, March 12 was not because I couldn’t watch this team in the Frozen Four. Those tears came because the journey with the players, coaches, and managers was officially over. I hope to see them all at graduation parties, reunions, and hopefully an annual trip to Rustic, but this wild ride we have been on has ended. That is why I cried. I cried because outside of my blood-related family, I don’t love anyone more on Earth than my hockey family. These players, coaches, parents, and managers have all been so kind to me and loved me back.
I realized the sadness comes because I won’t broadcast in the stands from some random city in America’s Midwest with Pat and Ethan. I won’t talk to my dad and the other coaches on a bus ride again. I won’t sit in a hotel room for hours with these friends again. This is heartbreaking, but I am fortunate enough to have had this family for the last four years. And as it is said in The Shawshank Redemption, “no good thing ever really dies.” So I sit here with a tear in my eye, but a smile on my face. The memories do flow through my head, and these will be some of the best memories of my life. Because this family has granted me so many memories, I have some thanks to give to the people involved.
As a broadcaster, besides my partners, the biggest connection we have is with the fans. For me, it was an honor to start to grow on the mic and tell the awesome deeds of these superhero-like characters on the ice to the fans and parents. From everyone at the SIBN, I would like to say thank you to the listeners. Without the listeners, we wouldn’t get to do what we love.
The dedication and love of the parents is one of the most special things about this program. The parents routinely filled their corporal works of mercy by feeding the hungry. When a game is taking place in the middle of Michigan and a student section cannot be had, the parents willing their kids to victory is special to watch. Mr. Kovatch with a single AirPod ready to tune in always brought a smile to our faces. The team “momagers” cannot be thanked enough for what they do. Mrs. Kurtz and Mrs. Boehm truly sacrificed so much time to make sure hotels, food, and reservations run smoothly. Without their help, we would be sleeping on a bus eating cold cuts.
Broadcasting high school hockey is not typically the coolest job in the world to little kids. When you say, “No, I broadcast the games,” kids typically say a resounding “Oh.” With that being said, it was always cool for the broadcasters when our posse of little helpers would come with us. Thank you to Johnny Sticks, Paddy, Bobby, Garrett, Luke, and Jake for always coming to sit by us during games. Of course, also to my mom, for tracking down Bobby only to find him with a headset on. I will never forget the first game Garrett stood with us when his older brother Ryce scored his first goal. That will always be one of my favorite moments broadcasting.
To my broadcast partners: Thank you for pushing me every game. Thank you for being so excitable about these games, so that I had no choice but to match that intensity. Thank you for taking bus trips to random places and carrying heavy gear and sitting inconveniently in the stands, kneeling near a power outlet to bring people Wildcat hockey. Ethan, the best choice I have ever made in terms of broadcasting was bringing you on this year. Recruiting you to join us will always give me a smile. Your love of the game continues to grow and your love of the team is matched by few. Anyone looking to play a good game of NHL 20 should give him a call. Pat Keane is synonymous with the SIBN in my book. For four years Pat has given up his winters to be a manager for his favorite team. The numerous road trips and broadcasts I have had with Pat is something I will always cherish. Pat’s energy and love for everything that he does will take him so far in this world. Mr. Ginley deserves a massive thanks. Along with Cooper and Nate, Mr. Ginley attended every game he possibly could while also balancing countless other sports. Mr. Ginley has made Wildcat fans on their phones feel as if they were there with highlights galore. He was also the man who took a chance on Pat, Joe, Connor, and me and let us take the gear to different places when I was a freshman, giving Wildcat hockey coverage that few teams get nationwide. Learning to set up the gear and the countless phone calls when I messed up will always be a laugh but so worth it if we could try to bring every game to people’s computers.
The unsung heroes of water bottles and the Manny Lounge cannot be forgotten either. Mac Spellacy and Max Marazzi spent the last three years taking sticks to the bench and filling waters without a complaint. Max has some of the more quotable lines in SIBN history to his credit as well. Mac truly did care about this team. Mac took off work to come to the rink one last time. Mac enjoyed being around the team with his dancing and pregame coffee. If it shows how much he cared, Mac’s hugs and care rivaled the longest time veterans. And last but most certainly not least, Josh Maciu for being a great manager and friend at every practice and roadie.
To the superheroes: Calling these games and tweeting about them and filling those bottles was not because of the name “Saint Ignatius hockey,” it was because of who made up Saint Ignatius hockey. The game-tying goals and windmill saves were more than such. To a hockey fan who loves this team, they were heroics. These players were truly larger than life in some ways. Watching them succeed was so special because they were not a group of NBA free agents and trades leading to success. They were a group of kids I watched develop and had freshman theology with. It was a pleasure to watch the bonds deepen and grow. The smiles and hugs after goals and the taps to Kovi’s pads after big saves were special. I would do everything humanly possible to get to broadcast, tweet, and manage one more game. Because of these individuals it truly was special for us. I will never forget the bus rides, locker room sing-a-longs, the hotel lobbies, and the best-dressed team in the state of Ohio. This team made every second enjoyable. Not a day goes by where I haven’t thought of a player or a moment that made me laugh. The NHL games, TV shows, and card games were always a blast. Like the song said, “We don’t even have to try, it’s always a good time.” Special moments were not few and far between. Besides the District Championship win, one of the last best memories I had was the whole team being around each other and together at Friday morning mass.
To the coaching staff. This one is the toughest. I’ve shared a decade worth of winters with some of you. Coach Zdolshek was the first Saint Ignatius hockey player I can vividly remember. It was cool for me that one of my first heroes joined the journey once again as a coach in the last year of my journey. Our hockey chaplain, Mr. Brennan, who I was lucky enough to have for class, is an excellent role model. I always enjoyed sitting and talking with Zak Kovatch before going to a Chapel Talk with Mr. Brennan. I have known Coach Geither for as long as I can remember. Whether it was Tribe talks, socks with sandals, or simple conversations, Coach Geither knows how to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Watching Liam and Matty and sitting with Clare in the stands was always fun as a little kid. Coach Holz is another one of my original heroes. Watching him return in his famed playoff blazer has been a joy. Coach Holz is one of the smartest people I know and one of the funniest as well. Coach Gramc is another coach I have known for a very long time. Coach Gramc taught me some social media skills and is one of the most knowledgeable people about sports that I know. Coach Gramc's love for the program is rivaled by few and he is one of the people I will miss most when I go off to college. Coach Schoenholz, much like Coach Holz, is also one of the funniest and smartest people I know. Being around Coach Schoenholz always makes me happy as his genuine care is so obvious. I remember when his children were born and it makes me smile seeing them and my own brothers run around the locker room much like I did at their age (and still do).
This one really is the toughest. To my dad. Spending these winters at hockey rinks with you has been the most fun of my life.I cry now as I think of all the memories these years have brought me and the fun it has been. From rides to the rink for games and practice to the fortunate years where you got to buckle a golden trophy in the backseat on the way to our house it has been so much fun. The hundreds of players, parents, games, and more I am forgetting that I have gotten to experience because of you is truly a blessing. I cannot thank you enough and I hope to keep attending as many games as possible for my favorite team. You are a humble man, but whether you would admit it or not, your love and care for your players is one of the biggest causes in the causes-effect relationship of this “family”. One day soon a new group will find their way to the locker room and hug and cry into your arms and each other's arms after the last practice because they too have gained friends for life. From going to Meadville, Toronto, Brooklyn, and everywhere in between, it has been an honor to share my favorite part of high school with you. The two words are not enough of a sentiment but all I can truly think of saying is thank you.
A chapter of the Saint Ignatius hockey program has been written, but the book is not yet finished. To you from failing hands we throw the torch be yours to hold it high.
Jack O’Rourke ‘20