2020 IHHF Bio Series: Bob Graham

Bob Graham
Coaches Category ~ Class of 2020

Bob was born in Oak Park and raised in Elmhurst by his parents along with his brother and three sisters. He was the oldest of five and paved the hockey way for his little brother. He began playing hockey at the age of 8 on his backyard rink and on the pond in Wilder Park in Elmhurst.

In 1969, when Bob was 11, he was one of the first members of the Huskies Hockey Club and played for their inaugural season, on the outdoor rink at the Elmhurst YMCA. He played his entire youth career with the Huskies all the way until we went to college. He also played for York High School from 1974 to 1977. After graduating high school, Bob attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison as a walk-on and spent four years as a Badger, earning his letter and an NCAA title.

Just after graduating college, in 1982, he married his wife Debbie and they lived in Addison. That following year, Bob coached and Debbie managed the Huskies Peewee team for the next four years. During that time, they welcomed their first child, Ashley into the world.

Bob then spent the next 11 years away from the coaching ranks to focus on his family and his business, while still playing in a Men’s league. During that time, they welcomed their second child, Matthew and moved the family to Glen Ellyn. It was those special years that he passed his love of hockey on to both of his kids, teaching them to skate and play and at a very young age.

In 1998, Bob returned to the ice, coaching at Center Ice in his hometown. He resumed his coaching career, coaching his son at the Squirt and Peewee levels for the Flames Hockey Club. It was his fourth year with the Flames, that Bob took over as their Bantam coach for the Silver and Gold levels (2000-2002).

Determined to get back to his roots, Bob found his way back to the Huskies to coach his son on Bantam Gold in 2002. The following year, he moved up to be the Midget Minor coach for two seasons (2003-2005). He coached both of his teams to win championship titles for CSDHL, State and Central District along with a National Championship Final 8 and a National Championship Runner Up. Additionally, as Midget Major coach from 2005-2006, his team won the CSDHL Championship and finished in the State final 4. It was during the ‘03/’04 and ‘05/’06 seasons that he met and coached his future son-in-law, Brian Lite. The year 2003 was also when his daughter scored the winning goal to take the State Championship…one of Bob’s proudest moments as a hockey dad.

As Bob and his son, Matthew closed out their coach/player relationship with accolades, they were the first father/son pair to win a State Championship in Huskies history. Matthew followed in Bob’s footsteps and went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison to play club hockey.

While Matthew went off to college, Bob wanted to try something new and accepted a coaching position with the Chicago Young Americans (CYA) Tier I AAA organization. There he coached their Midget Minor team from 2006-2008. And while he enjoyed his time with CYA, it just didn’t feel like home. This is why Bob went back to the Huskies club yet again, in 2008, to coach at the Squirt level. After that season, he was elected President of the Huskies Hockey Club and became the Squirt Level Director. During that time, he was also the Head Coach of the CSDHL Squirt team (2009-2010), with his future son-in-law, Brian Lite as his assistant coach. As he continued to coach the CSDHL Squirt team for the 2010-2011 season, he also began coaching a Mite team. It was that season, his daughter, Ashley married Brian Lite.

While serving as President, Bob brought tremendous knowledge to both coaching hockey and running the hockey club. He led the club through some of their toughest times. He served on the AHAI Player Development Board for the Central District and worked very closely with USA Hockey to ensure the club met all requirements within these governing bodies. It was his priority to provide the best coaches, skill-development and opportunities for the children. Coach Bob lived his life for the betterment of his players on and off the ice. He would always say, “every choice I make is for every single hockey player.”

He continued to coach and shape Huskie players at both the Squirt and Mite levels. He also continued to serve on the Development Board up until the very day we tragically lost him on May 24, 2017. The hockey community was stunned by such a great loss and all gathered together to celebrate his life and contributions at the Huskies home rink in Romeoville.

Bob has left quite a lasting impression on not only his friends and family, but also his hockey family and the community at large. While he touched the lives of his players daily, he also had a massive rippling effect reaching their family members as well. He loved his players as his own, caring deeply about their life and success on and off the ice. He shaped and molded lives by not only teaching hockey skills, but teaching life lessons that players could apply throughout their lifetime.

Many of his players felt so strongly about the contribution that Coach Bob had made in their development, that they wrote their college thesis essay about how he impacted and shaped their lives. As of today, his past players are coaching the newest generations of hockey players, passing down his drills, skills and “Bobisms”.

Last year, Ashley returned to hockey wearing Bob’s number, after a 16 year hiatus. That is where she feels closest to her dad, hearing him coach her from above. And just this year, some of Bob’s famous drills were brought back to the ice by his son-in-law Brian Lite, as he now coaches Bob’s granddaughters Liv (8 years) and Elle (5 years). Both Brian and Ashley feel Coach Bob in them as they now teach and develop their own daughters on and off the ice.

And with that, Coach Bob’s legacy lives on and the rest is “Duck Soup!”

Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Update

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be holding an induction ceremony this year. We will be inducting this 16th class into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame on Sunday, January 30, 2022 at the Belvedere Banquet Hall in Elk Grove Village beginning at 5:00 pm. More information will follow when we get closer to the event.

“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.”

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