I just got back to my office after lunch and was greeted by very sad news. One of my first hockey coaches when I started playing competitive hockey passed away last night after a long battle with Cancer. Mr. John D. Rastelli Jr, or Coach Rastelli as we all called him, was an amazing man, who taught me so much about so many things, on and off the ice. (His obituary is located here http://bit.ly/if2Xjm)
For those of you that don’t know, I played hockey for 11 years, starting when I was seven and ending when I graduated at the age of 18. Coach Rastelli was my coach for seventh and eighth grade, so when I was 13 and 14. However, he continued to coach the middle school team I played for when I was in High School, so I continued to see him after that. Coach Rastelli always was able to put a smile on my face, he just had that kind of personality that lit up a room when you saw him, and was always smiling, unless he caught you not working hard and then there was hell to pay. Prior to my seventh grade year, I played hockey at an in house level, but started traveling with my team and playing for two teams that year. He always wanted us to get better.
I can’t tell you how many things I learned from Coach Rastelli. I learned the value of hard work. We spent most of our practices with him just working on skating. I can’t tell you how many times we did full circles, Russian circles, and east to west drills with him. We didn’t even get pucks until more than halfway through practice. However, because he taught me to work on the basics, I became a very strong skater. He also gave me one of my first experiences in leadership, naming me captain of my team, a title that he felt I earned and deserved.
I remember when he first told us he had Cancer, and he was really the first person I ever knew that had it, and seeing him struggle through the disease was hard on all of us as a team. He ended up having to take a step back when he was undergoing treatment, but it was always a joy when he was able to make it out to a game or practice. He coined the phrase “It’s not just Hockey, its Clearview Hockey”, which we didn’t quite understand, but he loved to remind us of it at all times. When I was back in my hometown in March, I went to my home rink and the banner with that phrase on it is still up there, many years after I last touched the ice there.
I hadn’t spoken to Coach Rastelli in many years, but I thought of him often. I didn’t even really realize that he was sick again. It was quite a shock when I saw the obituary posted on my former teammates walls. I didn’t know what to do (I still don’t, as I have broken down a few times while writing this post). I didn’t really think it would affect me this much, but it has and it is.
Its amazing how much you don’t realize people teach and touch you until they are gone. We all have those people in our lives, the ones that if you really think back, made a huge impact on who you are and what you have become. Whether it is a teacher, a coach, a pastor, or anyone really, they helped us during our formative years, and the lessons they gave us still are used today. Don’t forget those people in your lives, and also don’t forget that you may be that person to others. I don’t know if Coach Rastelli ever realized how much he taught me, and I don’t think I ever took the opporunity to tell him. All I can hope now is that at some point, I am able to pass those messages on to others, and his memory and legacy lives on.
Rest in Peace Coach Rastelli. Thank you for all that you did and for showing us how to be better men.