By Ross Forman
So it was some learn-to-skate lessons years ago at the Darien Sportsplex.
His first game was as a squirt, and though he now doesn’t remember too much about it, “I do remember that we came in first-place in our league that year and I have a puck that was signed by all of my teammates.”
Flash-forward to the 2017-18 season, and Gergits’ teammates are now the DuPage Stars, a club that dates back to 2010 when the South Hockey Club was formed for players from Hinsdale South and Downers South High Schools. In 2013, the club welcomed players from Downers North High School and the team became the DuPage Stars. In 2014, Lisle High School joined the club, and the team now also features student-athletes from Westmont High School.
“Our team is looking really good,” Gergits said. “We lost a couple of key guys this year, but we also gained a lot of kids from other club teams that wanted to also play for the high school team.
“Our biggest strength this year is going to be the speed and skill of our offense. Once the defense gets the puck to the offense, it will be a good chance that they will get some good opportunities.”
Gergits sports jersey No. 9, and is a 6-foot, 160-pound, right-handed shooting defenseman who lives in Downers Grove and attends Downers Grove South, where he is a senior.
Gergits is in his first season on varsity.
“I really like playing on a co-op team because of the friendships you can make with people from different schools,” he said. “Last season I played JV and we did pretty well. At the start of the season, we played against the hardest teams in the league, so it started off kind of rough. But we battled back and came in second in our conference and ended our season around .500. In fact, we made it to the finals of conference playoffs, but didn’t do too well in that best-of-three series, losing in two.”
Gergits and the Stars’ JV went 11-12 last season in the IHSHL Suburban Division, won by Waubonsie Gold #2.
Gergits had 5 assists in 19 league games last season.
“I think we will all always remember our trip to Detroit (last season),” Gergits said. “We played in a tournament, (including a game) against a team that had seven college players; it was an 18U tournament. In the end, the tournament was so much fun because we all grew so much closer as a team.
“(Since) I played so many years of club (hockey before joining the Stars), I know a lot of people from other schools. So I think for me my most memorable moment was playing against all of my friends from other high schools and beating some of them.”
Another career highlight for Gergits was, as a bantam, playing for the Canlan Rebels, of Romeoville.
“We were a fantastic team,” he said. “First, we went 32-0 before losing in our last tournament to a team from Canada. We won three of four tournaments we entered. The best thing about the team was the relationships I built. We were all good friends and everyone really worked hard to play as a team, not as individuals. It was a great year.”
Gergits also is in his third season as a hockey referee, and he already has officiated a state championship mite game, along with his dad.
Gergits dreams of someday skating at the United Center – as a referee, or a state championship-seeking player.
“Being an official really helps me understand the officials’ point of view while playing so I know what should be a call and what shouldn’t,” he said. “Being a player really helps me officiate because of the hockey sense. I feel if I did not play the game I would always get caught in the play as a ref because I wouldn’t be able to anticipate the play.”
Gergits is a defensive-minded player, who knows the jump to varsity hockey, especially in the West, will be 10-times tougher than what he faced last season.
“My biggest (personal) goal is to have a lot of clean, effective hits and stay out of the (penalty) box,” said Gergits, who noted the contributions and tips he’s received from Colin McAuliffe, who was his coach when he played midget hockey with the Canlan Rebels. “He was just an amazing coach and explained everything in ways that you could understand.”
When not skating, Gergits is in the Downers Grove South Marching Mustangs drumline, where he plays the tenors, which are five drums. Those drums weigh about 65 pounds when strapped to his back and shoulders. It is a great workout,” he said, laughing.
Gergits is considering Illinois State University for college and is looking to major in elementary education. His dream-job is teaching fourth-grade in a suburban school district.
“Playing in the marching band in the offseason really keeps me in shape for the (hockey) season to start,” he said.
Favorite NHL Teams: Chicago Blackhawks and Las Vegas Golden Knights
Favorite NHL player: Brandon Saad
Favorite sport (other than hockey): Baseball
Favorite app: Snapchat
Favorite TV show: Rick and Morty
Favorite sports movie: Slap Shot
Hardest slap shot on your team (excluding yourself): Levi Bollnow
Who on your team will, someday, make a great coach (excluding yourself): Billy Carroll
Best HS jerseys (other than the Stars): Providence Catholic green jerseys
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.