Hockey coach suffers traumatic brain injury after simple fall during practice

A local hockey coach is in the hospital tonight with a brain injury after a fall at practice and it doesn’t look like he’ll be going home any time soon.

His family is now putting out a reminder for everyone to stay safe on the ice.

Tony Christiansen has known and coached with Harv Graczyk for about 15 years. So when he heard his friend suffered a traumatic brain injury after a simple fall during practice, it shocked him. Seasoned skaters take simple falls all the time, Christiansen says.

“Easily, if you’re doing a demonstration or you’re skating around, you can catch an edge, hit one of the gouges and boom, down you go,” Christiansen said.

The night of Nov. 26, the 67-year-old Graczyk was finishing up a peewee practice when he caught a groove and dropped backwards. He split his head open on the ice and wasn’t moving.

“It’s just that it happens that quickly,” said Blake Graczyk, Harv's son. “You don’t think of it happening to you and when it does, it can be catastrophic like it is in this case. It happens in a blink of an eye.”

A GoFundMe campaign for his family has been started because it’s unknown how long his recovery will last and how much lost wages it’ll mean for him and his wife.

Graczyk was in the ICU for a week and he’ll be hospitalized for an unknown amount of time and will need at least a month in a rehab facility after that.

12 years ago, U.S.A. Hockey made it mandatory that coaches wear helmets. This year, they upped the penalty to a mandatory 30-day suspension.

Graczyk, like so many coaches, follows that rule but doesn’t snap his chin strap. When he fell, his helmet fell off on the way to the ice.

“It’s very common to just throw the bucket on and go out and there’s no strap,” said Blake Graczyk. 

What his friends and family urge now is, when you’re on the ice, wearing a helmet doesn’t help if it’s not going to stay on.

“It just shows you how important it is to have your helmet secured, because if it were, he probably still would have had a concussion, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near this level,” Blake Graczyk said.