Builders’ Category ~ Class of 2019
Rich was born in Oak Park and raised in North Riverside by his loving parents, Ray and Irene Jecmen. He is the youngest of 3 children. As public rinks were hard to come by, his passion for hockey was formed on the rivers, creeks, and ponds in his neighborhood. Organized hockey was not feasible for the family during these times. Pick-up games and midnight hockey were the only option.
In the spring of 1978, he was asked by a friend if he would coach the Riverside Brookfield high school hockey team during their inaugural spring season. He gladly accepted and ended up leading the team to the spring league championship. He also stayed on as an assistant coach through their fall season.
During a short hiatus from hockey, Rich met his wife Kathy while working at the Robert Bosch Corporation in Broadview. They married in 1983 and bought their first home in Bloomingdale. Rich and Kathy are the parents of two children. Patrick was born in 1990 and Danielle in 1995. Patrick started playing for the Flames in 1996, where Rich served as the team’s coach from the pre-hockey through squirt levels.
In 2001, Pat moved to the Chicago Blues hockey club to continue his youth career. It was at this point that Rich made the transition to board member of the Blues organization. He started out on the Rules and Ethics committee, moved up to Vice President, and ultimately served as President for two years.
During the summer of 2006, Pat and Rich met Jim Smith and JJ O’Connor at the AHAI Golf Outing, a day that would change their lives. After hearing JJ’s inspirational speech of his life story, Patrick decided to ask Jim and JJ if he could volunteer to help with the Hornets Sled Hockey team. He joined the team that fall, becoming the team’s first “Student Coach”. With Pat going away to college in 2008, Jim asked Rich if he would be interested in helping with the Hornets. Rich accepted, thus making the life-changing move from able-bodied hockey to disabled hockey.
While coaching the Hornets in 2015, Rich was asked to also coach the newly formed Chicago Blackhawks Warriors. The Warrior discipline of USA Hockey strives to reintegrate disabled veterans into civilian life through the competitiveness and camaraderie of the game. Working with the Blackhawks Warriors was one of Rich’s biggest challenges, as he was not only coaching the team but trying to build the organization. Fundraising and marketing of the team were the main hurdles to overcome. He enlisted the help of Kathy, Pat, and Danielle to assist with the Warriors. Disabled hockey has not only become part of Rich’s life, but also his family’s.
In February of 2016, Rich was honored with the BMO Harris Bank Youth Hockey Volunteer of the Month Award. In 2019, Rich was selected as AHAI’s Disabled Hockey Coach of the Year.
Rich is honored to be a member of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame and humbled to join the ranks of the incredible men and women that came before him. He would like to thank those that recognized the difference that this sport has made in the lives of so many.
Rich says, “The selection to the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is a dream come true that was never dreamt. When you do something you love, the honors and accolades really don’t cross your mind. You do it because you love this great sport and the people involved in it.”
NOTES: The IHHF Induction Dinner will be held in their honour on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at the Belvedere Banquet Hall located at 1170 West Devon Avenue in Elk Grove Village beginning at 5:00 pm. Tickets are available by contacting Norm Spiegel at (847) 269-2922 or email Norm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining in honoring this special group of inductees will be several of the past inductees into the Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees, and all of the past inductees have demonstrated, through their actions over the years, their personal commitment in making a difference in the lives of thousands of Illinois youth and the Illinois hockey community.
The mission statement of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is as follows:
“To honor the excellence of those individuals who, through their exceptional endeavors both on and off the ice, have contributed in an extraordinary way to enhance the sport and image of hockey in Illinois.”
On behalf of everyone involved in the game of hockey, we admire and thank each of the inductees into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2019. They truly are in a class of their own.