By Shannon Tamlyn
One fractured vertebrae, another completely destroyed, four screws, two plates, four days hospitalized and six months in a neck brace. Andrew Kaczmarek, a DHS junior had to endure all of this when he was playing travel hockey.
During a game, he and an opposing team member were racing to the boards when he was checked from behind and slid head first into the boards. After twenty minutes of trainers evaluating his condition on the ice, Kaczmarek was admitted to the hospital to be operated on and sent into recovery as quick as possible.
Prior to this injury, Kaczmarek was actively involved with football and hockey. Due to injuries suffered in hockey, Kaczmarek was told by doctors to follow strict rules of not participating in sports that involve any physical contact. Even after he fully recovered, he was unable to play a sport that had been such a big part of his life. However, he found it difficult to remove himself from hockey altogether.
DHS varsity hockey Coach Dick Blasy was planning on seeing Kaczmerak at tryouts the following day, but as a result of the injury other ideas were proposed to keep him involved with hockey.
“It was a combination of his family and me talking after the incident and wanting him to be involved with hockey still,” Blasy said. “He was an on-ice manager, in a roundabout way he was a volunteer assistant coach.”
Despite the fact that Kaczmarek was unable to provide for the team through his on ice play, he encouraged the team and gave constructive feedback to all of the players.
“He was always adding his perspective on the game and told us what we were doing good and what we need to work on. He was like another coach,” senior team member Seth Clark said.
Kaczmarek still dressed in full gear and practiced with the team. Additionally, he also organized and managed statistics of the game. He did his best to keep up positive energy during games and long practices.
“He always puts a smile on your face even if you’re having a bad game,” senior participant Dylan Maddox said.
Although Kaczmarek cannot contribute to the varsity hockey team by playing, he is gladly able to still be a part of something he loves.
“I’ve played hockey since I was four years old, and I enjoy just being around the sport,” Kaczmarek said.