Gary Blaha has played hockey for as long as he can remember. He has been coaching hockey since 1982 and youth hockey in Illinois since 1988. That’s 4 decades and 30 years of coaching. At this point he has positively impacted hundreds if not thousands of youth hockey players in the Chicago area. He has worked with several clubs at many levels. Often times when he walks in a rink you hear, “Coach Gary!” and see a former player come running up. Simply put if hockey is his life – coaching hockey is his heaven.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, March 14th Gary was in a car accident. Fortunately nobody was injured in the accident. Unfortunately, Gary caused the accident because he suffered a SEVERE STROKE. He was rushed to the hospital and has been in the ICU since that time. The doctors diagnosed that the stroke has seriously affected two lobes, the temporal and parietal lobes on the right side of his brain.
As of this writing (Sunday, March 18, 2018) Gary is not able to use his left side (he shoots lefty) and has extremely limited speech. We are still assessing what the future holds for Gary as it is yet mostly uncertain. What IS certain is that the road will be long and difficult. He will likely be in the hospital for another few weeks. After that we are anticipating that he will be at an inpatient rehabilitation facility for some time. Again, he is looking at a recovery period of many months to a year or more. Not only will this recovery take serious time and effort for Gary and his wife Kris, it will also consume much financially. Worth noting, in 2011 Gary was diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer and beat that. This fight looks like it will be even tougher than that one.
Two things have sparked Gary to smile and show some ‘spark’. First, his grandchildren. Gary is a terrific grandfather to his 5 grandchildren. He taught them all how to skate and 2 of them are currently playing hockey. One at Barrington High School and one for the Northwest Chargers. Second, watching and hearing about what is going on with his favorite hockey teams…he has several. We are grateful for these lights in a time of uncertainty.
We are asking you to contribute in one or both of two ways. One – any donation you can make is greatly appreciated. We are anticipating the road to recovery will be a very expensive one. Anything that can be done to alleviate some of the stress that comes from the financial side of a situation like this is terrific. Two – if you are or know a former player that can find a few minutes to put together a card or note that we can pass along to Coach Gary that will surely lift his spirits!
Finally, today (Sunday) his speech therapist asked him, “Can you tell me your name?” After a bit he replied, “Gary…Coach Gary”. This goes to demonstrate how much he cares when it comes to coaching youth hockey.
If you would like to send him a note or card you can address to Nicole Molinaro 450 Princeton Ave Barringotn Il 60010. I iwll make sure he gets it
- Leo Tropeano
- Natalie and Jake Swiatek
- Jean Feehan
- manny valvis
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