For the better part of three decades, Harv Graczyk has been there for the St. Michael-Albertville Hockey Association. Lacing up his skates and donning his whistle, Graczyk has coached countless STMA skaters every winter, simply for the love of the game.
The last few days though, the coach simply known as Harv by so many, has been conspicuously absent.
Graczyk, 67, took a fall on the night of Nov. 26 at the St. Michael-Albertville Arena, and the beloved coach split his head open on the ice. Parents and paramedics rushed to his aid, and he was transported to a local hospital. Friends and family say he’ll be there for a while. He spent a week in the ICU, and is recovering now from a brain injury. Though Harv was wearing a helmet – as is required of all players and coaches – he did not have it strapped. His son, Ben, said the helmet came free as he was falling, so Harv’s skull took the brunt of the fall.
Doctors were able to reduce the swelling and get Graczyk stabilized, but they’re unsure of any long-term damage. Harv will be hospitalized several more days and require in-patient rehabilitation, meaning he and Bonnie, his wife, will be at the hospital and out of work for a while.
Community members are pitching in to help Harv and family. There is a GoFundMe organized as the hockey community rallies around the Graczyk family.
Harv’s son, Blake, is also asking coaches to “strap in” when getting on the ice. He said many coaches just slap the helmet on, like his dad, but don’t buckle that chin strap.
“It just shows you how important it is to have your helmet secured because if it were, he probably still would have had a concussion, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near this level,” Blake told FOX 9 reporters.