AMESBURY — When Amesbury hockey coach Chris Kuchar fell ill at the start of the preseason, a hockey community came forth to meet the challenge.
Kuchar’s health concerns came at the worst time. On just the second day of tryouts, a lingering cold escalated into pneumonia, hospitalizing the coach for a week. While being away from his team for seven days may not appear to be damning, the time missed amounted to half of his team’s preseason preparation.
“This being a short (pre)season because of the late Thanksgiving, it makes it especially difficult,” Kuchar said. “Having a somewhat young team (only three seniors) adds to the challenges. However, most players from last year are back so youth is not an excuse.”
Those affiliated with the Indians had no option other than going the extra mile. Kuchar fought pneumonia to meet his assistant coaches, who fought traffic after every practice to make the trip to the hospital.
“I met with my assistant coaches, Rick Poulin and Steve Belmonte, each night in my hospital room to go over cuts, players being sent to JV, evaluation of that day’s practice and what I would like for them to do the following day in practice,” Kuchar said. “It was a lot to throw at them (because they are first-year coaches), but they handled it very, very well and the kids responded and worked hard for them.”
Support was also given to the ailing coach from within the fraternity of hockey coaches, as well as Kuchar’s past players.
“It was nice to hear from (Newburyport coach) Paul Yameen and a couple of other coaches and former players who had found out,” Kuchar said. “When you’re lying in a bed 18 hours per day, it’s a nice boost.”
The effort also extended beyond the ice.