St. Michael-Albertville youth hockey coach dies after hitting head on ice. Harv Graczyk had led small-town youth teams for more than 30 years.
A beloved youth hockey coach from the communities of St. Michael and Albertville died over the weekend, his family confirmed.
Harv Graczyk had coached youth hockey teams in the towns just west of the metro area for more than 30 years. He had fallen and hit his head on the ice, suffering a traumatic brain injury, while coaching Nov. 26.
U.S.A. Hockey requires that coaches wear helmets, and Graczyk was wearing one at the time. But the chin strap was not completely fastened and the helmet came off as he fell to the ice and hit his head, said his son, Blake.
Graczyk spent a week in intensive care and two more weeks at North Memorial Health Hospital before he died of a pulmonary embolism on Saturday, his son said.
"He had a unique way of touching many lives," the family said in a statement. "He was a very generous and hard working person. He was caring and compassionate toward his family, friends and community. All of which was guided by his Catholic faith. His legacy will forever live on."
Graczyk, 67, was a 1969 graduate of Osseo High School. In the 1970s, he got a job at the Osseo Ice Arena, and that led him into coaching, his son said.
Graczyk coached teams in several age groups during his career with the St. Michael-Albertville Youth Hockey Association. He focused much of his time with players ages 11 to 14. He led "old-school" disciplined teams and developed good rapport with his players and their parents, who often referred to him as "Grandpa Harv," said Tony Christensen, a longtime friend who coached with Graczyk for many years.
"He was known for touching hearts," Christensen said. "He was an extremely caring person."
Graczyk kept up with his players and supported them even after they had left the program and moved to higher levels. He drove all over the state to watch them play hockey or other sports, Christensen said.
His willingness to lend a hand spread far beyond the rink. One of his neighbors ran a taxi company, and when she was short on drivers, Graczyk got behind the wheel, Christensen said.
"He would help people out," Christensen said.
As of Monday afternoon, 217 people had contributed more than $23,000 through a GoFundMe page
set up Dec. 3 to help with Graczyk's medical expenses and now funeral expenses.