By Ross Forman
Brian J. Paolello, who was the Most Valuable Player for the St. Rita Hockey Team before graduating in 1994 and then a four-year player at Iowa State University, died unexpectedly on June 5. He was 41. Cause of death is yet to be determined.
Paolello worked for Dart Advantage Logistics for the last 15 years and was the Director of Operational Development. He was a father of two: Gwen, 12, who excels in gymnastics; and Gino, 9, was active in hockey, lacrosse and other sports.
Brian was Gino’s spring hockey coach.
And he is in the Iowa State Hockey Hall of Fame, inducted in 2012.
Paolello was a captain of the 1999-2000 Iowa State squad, a season during which he earned the Spirit Award. “He was a model Cyclone hockey player,” the team posted on its Facebook page.
Paolello attended St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Lisle and, at age 6, was introduced to hockey and skating for the Downers Grove Huskies. “Like most kids at a young age, he disliked practice but loved games,” said his dad, John.
Paolello was a forward and was coached by Tom Hawkins, Steve Diebold, Dave Gomez, Bill Martin, and others. In 1993-94, Coach Keith Lellinger guided Paolello’s midget AA team to first-place in AHAI and second-place in the Midget Tier II National Championship in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Brian followed his older brother, John, to St. Rita, though they lived in Lisle. In his first year, he played JV part of the season before moving to the varsity.
John and Brian were teammates in Brian’s second season – and the team won the Catholic League’s Kennedy Cup for the first time in several years.
Paolello was awarded the Wayne Tomas Award.
In Paolello’s senior season, he was named captain.
“He had a very good year (and) was named to the AHAI High School South All-Star Team as well as being selected to play in the America’s Showcase team.
Near the end of his high school career, Paolello was invited to attend the Hockey Night in Boston tryout camp, and was selected to play for the Helena Ice Pirates.
He played two years, wearing jersey No. 10.
Paolello then moved on to Iowa State University, where he was co-captain in his senior year. He skated one year with his brother John in college, too.
In his rookie season with Iowa State, Paolello skated on the second line with two veteran players. He helped the team finish first in the nation during the 1997 season. He also helped the team win the CSCHL tournament (1997) before losing to Ohio University in the ACHA National Championship Game (1997).
“Brian had a reputation of being a gritty forward (who) would pressure and frustrate opposing teams. He had great vision and eye for the net,” his dad said.
In 1999, his junior year, he was selected to the CSCHL All-Star Game. “They had a great year and won the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championship, played in Delaware,” his dad said.
Paolello finished in the top four in scoring in his last three years at ISU.
“He was aggressive and very committed to whichever team he was on,” his dad said. “He was disciplined, worked hard, was a competitor, and had a love for the game.”
Off the ice, Paolello enjoyed running and just completed a half marathon. He also enjoyed golfing.
“His No. 1 priority was spending quality time with his children,” his dad said.
“Brian was the first to offer his time whenever someone asked him. He volunteered coaching Gino eventually taking over the head coaching role both in the Naperville Sabres organization and also in Minnesota. He always wore a CCM hat backwards. He will be remembered as a great father to his two kids.”
The Sabres’ Facebook page said, “Brian was a coach who had a positive influence on many young skaters. He left the world far too soon, and we know he will be missed by many.”
Donations on behalf of Brian Paolello can be sent to:
2414 Morris Avenue
Union, NJ 07083
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.
Categories: Hockey Headlines