By Ross Forman
Evan Lustig, who played youth hockey locally and then became a popular, respected referee, died July 29 peacefully in his sleep after a long battle with stage 4 large cell diffused lymphoma. He was 29.
Lustig, who grew up in Skokie and graduated from Niles West High School in 2004, skated through the Skokie Flyers program, often with his dad as one of his coaches. He officiated – from mites to high school to club-level college to adult leagues – for about 15 years, often working many games in a day, at multiple area rinks, quite often alongside fellow official and fellow Skokie native Matt Schwartz.
“He was one (who officiated) eight games a day, and certainly was very visible at the Skatium. In fact, if a game was being played in Skokie, (or) at Heartland (Ice Rink in Lincolnwood), or at Evanston, there was a very good chance that Evan was working the game,” said Steve Glickman, a Skokie native who is now the Hockey Director for the Skokie Amateur Hockey Association.
“It didn’t matter what level the game was, from mites on up, or the competitive level of the game, Evan gave it his all. He was highly likeable and very well respected as an official. He had a good feel for the game. He was a player’s official.”
Jack Raslawski, the former Referee-in-Chief (RIC) for the Illinois Hockey Officials Association (IHOA), supervised Lustig in games over the years, assigned him to work countless games, and shared on Facebook that “the hockey community lost a fellow brother,” with Lustig’s passing.
Raslawski said one of the first things he recalled about Lustig as an official was his simple willingness to work – and to work anywhere and everywhere, often with Schwartz. “They would go to the ends of the earth, just to work games,” Raslawski said. “He was that go-to guy (as an assigner) when a game wasn’t filled.
“Evan was a solid official; he was respected and there never was a problem with the games that he worked. He knew how to call the game; he had a good feel for the game.”
Steve Cohen assigned Lustig to work countless games for both Winnetka and Deerfield Falcons home games. He also officiated games with Lustig.
“Evan had such a good outlook and love for what he did,” Cohen said. “He had great skill and passion and was just a terrific referee.”
Sjoujke Brown, the new Central District RIC, said Lustig was an official who was “hungry to learn as much as he could so that he could work the best possible games.”
Brown recalled that Lustig volunteered at the annual start-of-the-season seminars, and soon became a seminar assistant. “He showed up early, left after all was done, and did whatever he was asked, and then some,” she said. “He volunteered for more seminars than he was required to, and was always eager and willing to give back to the program.”
Brown added, “I am truly thankful to have had Evan in my life, and will keep his family in my prayers.”
Off the ice, Lustig enjoyed playing poker – often with Schwartz. He also enjoyed bicycle riding and simply being outside.
“We used to bicker like an old, married couple. He’d push my buttons, then I’d push his buttons, but then we’d agree to go somewhere together for dinner,” Schwartz said. “We always made up; we never had a fight last too long.”
Lustig had severe back pain for years, Schwartz recalled, but it wasn’t until January 2014 that he went to the hospital to be examined, diagnosed and, eventually, start treatment.
He ultimately went through 17 rounds of chemotherapy.
“His form of cancer was extremely aggressive and he will be so deeply missed,” Schwartz said. “We had a good time working together on the ice, and a lot of good times of the ice, too.
“Evan touched a lot of people in his life, and if there is anything I learned from him, it is, don’t sweat the small stuff and treat every day like it’s a gift.”
Sunday, August 2, at 10:00 a.m. at:
Chicago Jewish Funerals
8851 Skokie Boulevard
At the home of Sheldon and Marsha Lustig
3125 Huntington Lane
Northbrook, Illinois 60062
Sunday, August 2, after the service until 8 p.m.
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.