Rushed from the rink, Barrington High School star spent 8 days in the hospital
By Ross Forman
Zach Dulla has a two-inch long scar on the left side of his chest, a lifelong reminder of his last high school hockey game, played in early-February, 2011.
It was Senior Night for Barrington High School, and Dulla was a senior all-state left wing. He left the rink that night and went by ambulance directly to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. He was diagnosed with a collapsed left lung and ultimately spent eight days in the hospital.
“I try not to think back on that night. It was the last home game of my senior season and a tough way to go out. I just wish I had the opportunity to compete in the playoffs with my team,” Dulla said. “After rushing to the hospital, doctors in the emergency room performed an emergency procedure and put in a breathing tube to relieve pressure build up. A few days later, they pulled that tube and put a smaller one in to remove air that was preventing the lung from re-inflating. It was a long and painful process.”
Dulla, who lived in Barrington at the time, was a two-year varsity hockey player, co-captain and the team’s second-leading scorer in league play at the time. He also was a two-year wide receiver for the football team and who led the Broncos in all receiving statistics (31 receptions, 556 yards and 7 touchdowns) while earning all-conference accolades in 2010.
Dulla went behind the net, looking for a pass. He was turning when a player from co-op BG/H/W hit Dulla at full speed. Though Dulla skated off the ice on his own, he immediately sensed something was wrong.
“I was sitting on the bench and just felt like the wind had gotten knocked out of me. But it was a lot higher in my chest, toward my sternum,” Dulla said at the time. “I tried to walk it off, but it just got worse and worse, and I wasn’t able to breath.”
Then-Barrington head coach Rob Hutson soon guided Dulla across the ice, calling 911 at the same time.
“The injury will always stay with me but physically, I’m 100 percent (healthy),” he said.
“I’ve played in some summer men’s league (games) over the years and I started an intramural team with my fraternity brothers at the University of Illinois.” He plans to start playing in the Johnny’s Ice House leagues later this year.
“The injury happened when I was at a crossroad that most athletes run into in life. Do I continue pursuing the sports dream or start focusing on my career after school? That hit pretty much answered the question for me,” Dulla said. “By not playing (any) college hockey, I was able to gain experience in a number of different fields, (such as) advertising, sales, video production and graphic design. I used the time I previously dedicated to sports to work on side projects of my own and maintain a job with Illini Productions, where I filmed and edited videos for the sports teams.”
Dulla, now living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, graduated last May from Illinois with a degree in advertising and business. He is an account executive at Hubbard Broadcasting, selling radio and digital advertising
“I still miss,” high school hockey, Dulla said. “A lot of the memories I made during those years have stuck with me. Mostly good, one not so good.”
Hubbard Broadcasting owns three Chicago radio stations (100.3 WSHE, 101.9 WTMX, 97.1 WDRV) and a digital advertising agency. “I enjoy the creative freedom that comes with working in advertising,” he said. “If I have a crazy idea, there’s no one telling me it can’t be done.”
Such as, a Chicago contest to find the Most Beautiful Eyes, which he created late last year “with the goal of making a splash in the industry,” he said. “The WSHE team and I developed a mass scale photo contest with a more than attractive prize – the winning eyes got featured on a Chicagoland billboard. A month later, LasikPlus decided to sponsor the program and it took off.”
The contest attracted more than 1,800 photo entries and more than 8,800 votes in three weeks.
The billboard with the winning eyes can be seen on I-294 South, starting March 14.
“I’m not sure what’s ahead (for) me. Right now, I’m just grinding away, trying to do some cool things in the industry. We’ll see where everything goes from here,” he said. “I learned a lot from the game. Hockey tests you every time you step on the ice. It’s not a sport where you can just go through the motions. I like to think I’ve brought that aspect of the game into my everyday life.”
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.