By Ross Forman
He was a senior at Loyola Academy, skating in a midget-level game for the McFetridge Patriots back on Oct. 24, 1995. J.J. O’Connor crashed into the boards at the Skokie Skatium, an accident that left him partially paralyzed.
O’Connor never skated again; he’s been in a wheelchair ever since.
But he’s never lost his love for the game – and hockey certainly owes a debt of gratitude to O’Connor. Quite simply, he’s done amazing things for the game, for his love of the game, for 20 years.
“I have enormous admiration for J.J.,” said former AHAI president Mike Mullally. “All he has accomplished since his accident truly causes such admiration. His ability to speak publicly and motivate is really an inspiration to all who hear him.”
O’Connor will be back at a local ice rink on Saturday night – 20 years to the day of his accident – for a celebration. For an event he conceived, helped plan, and one that will have long, lasting impact on the game, particularly, our game – the local hockey scene.
On Oct. 24, from 7 p.m. to midnight, JJ’s Pay It Forward Celebration will be held at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge. There will be ice skating, broomball, soccer, bumper cars on ice, raffles, silent auctions and more. The event will raise funds for three charities close to his heart – the GLASA Fire Power Soccer team, for disabled individuals in wheelchairs; disabled hockey, for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities; and the Blackhawks Warriors Hockey team, for injured veterans.
Organizers, including O’Connor, are hoping to raise $30,000 – and more than 3,000 are expected to attend.
Click HERE to read Ross Forman’s lengthy story about O’Connor and the event that ran in the Daily Herald.