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Sled-hockey event introduces GLASA to college students

Lake Forest-02/10/13 Sun./Lake Forest College AnKohout Lake Forest with Falcons collides with Lake Forest College goalie as she tries score

Lake Forest-02/10/13, Sun./Lake Forest College Ana Kohout, of Lake Forest, with the Falcons collides with a Lake Forest College goalie as she tries to score Sunday at Lake Forest College. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Head coach of the GLASA Falcons hockey team (the GLASA Falcons have teams that compete at the adult and youth levels, but they typically combine for exhibition events). GLASA stands for Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association and is based out of Laek Forest.

Fritz is recipient of the 2012 John MacInnes Award, an annual national award celebrating lifetime achievement in developing amateur hockey players both as athletes and as young men at the high school and college level.

He will be presented with the award at the American Hockey Coaches Association’s “Celebration of Men’s Hockey” Banquet in Naples, Florida, on May 4.

Fritz started the hockey program at the University School of Milwaukee in 1964 and came to Lake Forest College in 1978. He retired from LFC in 2010.

Fritz was honored as the John MacInees Award winner at LFC men’s hockey alumni night on Saturday.

Fritz led the Forester men’s hockey program for 32 seasons from from 1978-2010. He amassed 351 wins to rank among the top 50 all-time in collegiate coaching victories (all divisions).

Fritz was inducted into the Lake Forest College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. He also earned induction into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006 and is featured in a book on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.

Fritz was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization as a player in the Ontario Junior Hockey Association. He was considered to be one of the top five NHL prospects in Canada before an eye injury during the Memorial Cup Playoffs ended his playing career and set the stage for a successful career in coaching.

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Updated: March 13, 2013 6:16AM

Tony Fritz is the link between Lake Forest College and the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association.

And each year, the connection between the two grows stronger, as witness Sunday’s third annual “The Sleds Are Coming!” event at the college’s ice arena.

More than 300 people attended, with many being LFC students checking out what the excitement was all about.

And right in the middle of it all was Fritz, a hockey coaching legend at LFC who’s now becoming coaching legend with the GLASA Falcons.

Here were his thoughts on the event, and his connections with LFC and the GLASA:

What was behind his decision to get involved with GLASA?

“My grandchildren were involved with GLASA a little bit, so I got involved a little bit. When I retired, Julie Davis called me up while I was on vacation in Door County and said, ‘Would you like to help out with GLASA?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I really wanted to stay in hockey. The next thing I know I’m being listed as the head coach. Here I am three years later. I just sort of slid into it by osmosis. It wasn’t really a goal, but it’s something that really appeals to me.

“In addition to that, I now also work with the Equestrian Connections which is therapy for the disabled with horses. I grew up on a farm, so it was natural. I’m doing the two things that came naturally as a boy: I was a hockey player and a farmer.”

How do all of his years of coaching translate to coaching sled hockey for GLASA?

“It really did prepare me. If I had done this as a younger coach, I probably would have been impatient. There’s so much patience involved. It’s for the benefit of the player. There’s no pressure to win. It’s really about benefitting them and helping them learn the game. It’s so fulfilling to see people come in with wheelchairs and walkers and get on a sled and have fun like every able-bodied player in the world. To see the smiles on their faces, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

“Those years of coaching really did prepare. Not only did I learn the game, but I learned about how important it is to the individual. You don’t need to make such a big deal about winning, it’s about playing and being part of something. Now that they’re getting successful, that even helps more.

“Last year, we were second in the nation at our level. This year, we’re going to nationals again at the end of March in Philadelphia. We’re hoping to win the whole thing this time.

Is he happy that LFC has partnered up with GLASA to put on this event?

“It’s wonderful. It’s homecoming for me. It’s just great to be back in the rink with the kids. It brings back a lot of great memories.”

Lake Forest College men’s hockey team captain Thomas Bark was thrilled that the team could get involved in the GLASA event with Fritz.

Bark and several other Forester players helped push around sleds of GLASA players who were unable to propel themselves fully with their arms.

“Even though he’s not coaching anymore, he’s benefited the community tremendously,” Bark said of Fritz. “This is a great event. We have a lot of fun with it, and we get to meet some amazing people. A lot of our guys were on the sleds too, and even though they’re in great shape you could tell after five minutes that they were wearing out.

“They don’t make them like Coach Fritz anymore. He’s cut from the old cloth. It was sad when he went (retired from LFC), but he put in a lot of time here, some 30-odd years, and he left a great legacy here.”

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