By Ross Forman – Emilie Lindgren had a hunch that her team was up to something before their home game Saturday, March 6, against Brother Rice.
It was the first and only home game for the Kankakee Irish JV Team, and it was her last conference home game at their home rink.
Sure enough, the team celebrated head coach Bjorn Lindgren and his daughter, Emilie Lindgren, a senior at Momence High School. The Irish JV family and Ice Valley Centre celebrated with a bagpipe player escorting the team and then father and daughter, er, coach and right wing onto the ice.
A video was presented after the game with snapshots of their hockey past, followed by gifts being presented. Coach Lindgren has been coaching in the Kankakee Youth Hockey Club for 13 years, first coaching his son, Anders, who now plays college hockey.
Bjorn has coached Emilie for 6 years.
“When I walked into the rink, I saw all the decorations and felt honored and a bit embarrassed,” she said. “The ceremony was very impressive, with picture slideshows and gifts for me and my dad. I felt very loved and appreciated.
“Being my last home game, it was pretty bittersweet. However, it only made me more grateful for my awesome teammates and the Kankakee Irish family.
“I cannot fathom the amount of work that everyone involved went to just for me. The bagpipers were particularly special because I can remember them playing at my brother’s senior night four years (earlier), and I thought that it was so cool. To be honored that way, just like my brother was, that was such a blessing. I also love that my team’s name has such a cool history and culture behind it.”
Lindgren, 17, who lives in St. Anne, has played 4 years for the Kankakee Irish JV – and sports uniform No. 13. She shoots right-handed and formerly played for the Kankakee Coyotes.
She had 1 goal, 4 assists in 25 Hayes-Suburban Division games last season, when the Irish finished tied for seventh-place with a 12-12-3 record in the 18-team league.
“I most likely would not be playing if my dad was not my coach. He is the best coach I have ever had in all the sports I have played. I would not be the player I am today if he hadn’t coached me,” said Lindgren, who noted that rides to and from games and practices with her dad are lifelong memories. They talked about the team, hockey in general, and more.
“It is really nice to just be with him. I know I will not have many more of those opportunities as I soon go to college.”
She is still undecided on her college plans, though she would like to be a middle school or high school English teacher.
Lindgren said her favorite hockey memory was playing on an adult league team – alongside her brother and dad.
“That was a great experience. I love my family very much; it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I am not super-fast, strong, or (have many) other specific skills. To be honest, without my dad, I would be a bad player. But, since he focuses so heavily on team systems and plays, that works to my strengths greatly because I believe that I am a fairly smart person.”
Off the ice, Lindgren plays softball and is a member of the Momence Honor Guard, which is involved with military funeral services for veterans. She also is active at her church, including the youth group. And Bjorn is a children’s pastor.
Slapshots With … Kankakee Irish JV Player Emilie Lindgren
Career Highlight: “I was invited to try out for the Women’s World’s Deaf National Team in Minnesota in 2019, through the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association (AHIHA), but COVID shut down any future plans for that.”
Favorite NHL Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
Favorite NHL Player: Steven Stamkos
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Softball
Favorite App: Instagram
Favorite TV Show: The Walking Dead
Favorite Sports Movie: Remember the Titans
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: “Am not sure about pre-game, but post-game, I like Portillo’s.”
Best Hockey Tip: “Everyone out there wants to hurt you, so keep your head up.” – Bjorn Lindgren
Hardest Slapshot On Kankakee Irish JV: Cal Darling
Most Accurate Shot: Matthew Anderson
Fastest Skater: Conner Massie-DeVore
One Pre-Game Song: Life During Wartime by Talking Heads