LAKEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — On Tuesday night, a Twin Cities girls’ hockey team played for the love of the game and their coach.
Lakeville North varsity coach Buck Kochevar fell backwards during practice Monday night and hit his head on the ice. He wasn’t wearing his hockey helmet when he fell.
Kochevar suffered internal bleeding in his head and was rushed to the hospital. He was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.
“Laying everything out there, skating in practice and just maybe caught an edge on the ice,” said Bob Ertl, activities director at Lakeville North High School.
“It’s the swelling they’re concerned about, and so they did immediate surgery. Time is off the essence. I think they saved his life,” said Missy Tousignant, a close friend.
Tousignant was at the hockey game Tuesday night in Lakeville. It was one of the team’s biggest games of the year, as the Panthers were hoping to continue winning even without their coach.
“Just a very good guy. He’s a coach and teacher you’d want to work with your own kids,” said Ertl. “Just a great guy, high energy, jovial.”
The team has been on a roll all season, heading into the playoffs and positioning themselves to go to the state tournament.
When Ertl visited Kochevar in the hospital, he saw other local hockey coaches too. They came to support Kochevar.
“It’s kind of touching to know how tight these guys are,” Ertl said.
As bad as the news is and the fall was, Tousignant believes Kochevar’s prognosis is positive. His vital signs are looking good, she says.
“Before I left, he gave me a big thumbs up,” she said.
And he’d be proud to know his girls are doing well on the ice. The Panthers held the lead much of the game, though they lost in overtime.
Everyone at the arena was had hockey on their minds but the coach in their hearts.
“You know, these are difficult times for the family, kids on the team and community,” Ertl said. “I just know Buck, and Buck’s a fighter. I believe he’s going to make a full recovery.”