By Ross Forman
Benjamin Allison – who played goalie for Crystal Lake South High School and also was a skilled, high-level referee – passed away Tuesday morning, January 27, at Advocate BroMenn Regional Medical Center where he had been transported after he was found lying in the street in Normal on Saturday morning, January 24, after being struck by a car in a hit-and-run. He was a sophomore at Illinois State University. Allison was 20.
“Ben was an extraordinary kid. When he walked into a room, he was immediately liked,” said Rich Perillo, Crystal Lake South head coach. “He was a genuine kid, very kind, a leader who helped all of the younger kids. I can’t think of anybody who didn’t like Ben; he was just so well liked by everybody.”
Allison was a three-year varsity goalie who played for the Gators’ junior varsity team as a freshman.
“His size was great. His quickness with his glove, plus his side-to-side movement, made him a great goalie. He had great skill, great talent,” Perillo said. “He had so many friends, inside and outside of hockey. This has really devastated the community.”
The Gators played co-op Maine Township on Saturday night, January 24, in West Dundee, learning an hour before the game from Perillo about what happened to Allison. The team dedicated the game to Allison and it ended in a tie, 4-4.
CLS assistant coach Wayne Bower visited Allison in the hospital before he passed, along with many CLS players, both current Gators and about 20 former teammates of Allison, who kept a vigil at the hospital. Bower brought his son, Joey, who was CLS teammates and close friends with Allison.
Some of Allison’s former CLS jerseys will be given to his former teammates, Perillo said.
Perillo said one of his favorite Allison memories actually happened before a game – when the National Anthem singer for a special game didn’t show. Allison, a senior at the time, told Perillo he’d sing it, and he did. “He sang it perfectly,” Perillo said.
Perillo confirmed that helmet stickers and memory patches have been ordered to honor Allison.
McLean County Coroner Dr. Kathleen Davis said in a statement that Allison was an organ donor through the Gift of Hope program. An autopsy will be conducted at a later date, said Davis, whose office and the Normal Police Department continue to investigate the fatal hit-and-run accident, reported The Pantagraph.
Joey Bower, 21, a sophomore at St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, was a three-year CLS player. He was friends with Allison since seventh-grade and teammates for five seasons.
“He was the most selfless guy I ever met, the nicest kid I ever met; that’s the truth. I can’t explain how much of a good person he was and how he would run through a wall for any of his friends or family. He would drop whatever he needed to do to help you out,” Bower said.
Allison officiated through the Illinois Hockey Officials Association (IHOA) and also in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) through the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program (ODP). He worked a game this past December in Crystal Lake along with longtime local official Jack Raslawski – and Allison was the referee in the three-official game, though he learned he was working in the middle, with the orange bands, less than an hour before the opening faceoff.
“Ben officiated a great game, and (after) the game, Ben advised (me that) that was only his second time in the middle,” Raslawski said. “This kid had a great sense of humor; he was dedicated to our craft and a work ethic second to none. He truly was a great ambassador to our game (who) will be missed by all in our hockey community.”
Local referee Erin Blair added: “Ben always had a smile on his face; (you) could count on him for that. He had great aspirations as an official and always wanted to improve.”
Allison was a communications major at ISU and staff member at WZND, the student radio station.
“He would drop anything and everything in his life for his friends and family,” said Jordan Ross, 21, a junior at Illinois State University from Crystal Lake. Ross, a two-year CLS varsity skater, and Allison were teammates for five years.
“He was one helluva goalie, one of the best I ever played with. He was so big, so skilled; it was hard to score on him.”
Shane Gustafson is a former CLS teammate with Allison and the two also officiated together. Gustafson, 19, from Lake In The Hills, is a freshman at Northern Illinois University, and he credits Allison with pushing him toward USA Hockey’s ODP.
“Ben was just one of the kindest … he was always there for you,” Gustafson said. “I basically have him to thank him for where I am (as an official).
“Ben was so hard working on the ice, and was so hilarious, with his weird sense of humor. He’d make you laugh without really trying. He truly was a great guy who was on a fast-path (to higher level games) as an official.”
Police in Normal said Joshua M. Dunn, 21, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing injury. Dunn was being held in McLean County Jail.
In a message to ISU students, faculty and staff sent Tuesday morning, ISU president Larry Dietz said, “Today is a sad day for the Illinois State University family as we mourn the loss of a student, Benjamin Allison. Benjamin died from injuries he suffered on Saturday in a vehicle-pedestrian accident in Normal. Our sincerest condolences go to his family.”
Dietz said that Allison “will be greatly missed by his classmates, friends and his second family at WZND. He was also passionate about hockey and was active in the local and Crystal Lake hockey communities. Many people will lead better lives through Benjamin’s gift as an organ donor.”
“Tragedies like this remind us that life is precious and that we rely on each other for support. We may experience a wide range of emotions and may feel overwhelmed as we work through grief. It is important to remember that we are never alone and that by sharing our thoughts and feelings we will begin to heal.”
A Facebook page called “Ben Allison’s Legacy” has been set up by Allison’s friends and it already has more than 4,500 likes.
Visitation will be held Saturday, January 31 at Willow Creek Community Church from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with services immediately following from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Willow Creek Community Church
Lake Side Auditorium
67 Algonquin Road, South Barrington, IL 60010
Please park in lots C-D or E, and enter through the main auditorium entrance.