Illinois hockey mourns Wendlandt
Tom Wendlandt, who founded and coached both high school and college hockey programs in suburban Chicago, died in his sleep at his home in Palatine on Tuesday. He was 62.
Wendlandt and his wife, Lynne, founded the Prospect High School Hockey Team in the 1990s. Wendlandt coached it for six seasons and his son, Geoff, played on the team.
In the late 1990s, Wendlandt replied to an ad that he saw in a local hockey newspaper from Robert Morris College, as it was known at the time, which was seeking its first-ever hockey head coach. Wendlandt applied, was one of three finalists, and ultimately was offered and accepted the position.
He was the head coach for the school's top-tiered Gold team for its first seven seasons, starting with the 2000-01 campaign, and in 2002 he was named the school's director of hockey operations, a position he still held, which involved recruiting, scheduling, hiring coaches and travel logistics.
Wendlandt compiled a 110-96-10 collegiate coaching record and is an inductee into the Robert Morris Athletic Hall of Fame. In his second season on the Eagles' bench, he was named the ACHA Division 2 Central Division Coach of the Year honor in 2002.
"He was a great coach, official, administrator and, more importantly, a role model to so many. The hockey community has suffered a huge loss," said Bill Fehrman of Indian Head Park, the officials' assignment coordinator for the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI).
"Tom provided so many opportunities for high school students, particularly from the Chicago area -- to continue with their education and to play hockey," said Andy Storz, who is the school's director of game day hockey operations.
Wendlandt helped grow the Eagles hockey program from one team with 30 players its first season to six teams this season, including a women's team and team for the Peoria campus. He has impacted the college career of more than 2,000 hockey players in 17 years.
"What an amazing run -- from watching him coach with the Rolling Meadows Park District to becoming the architect of, arguably, the greatest ACHA college hockey program in the United States," said longtime local hockey coach Bill Martin of Rolling Meadows, who had a stint on the Eagles' bench among other local coaching jobs.
Wendlandt's hockey playing career was limited. He was a goalie for the St. Viator intramural team in the 1960s, played pond hockey, and then from 1988-93 played on a men's league team that was captained by Storz in Rolling Meadows -- and the team twice won the league championship.
Wendlandt officiated local games, too, wearing the stripes for about eight seasons. And his officiating trademark was that he wore goalie skates.
"There are no words that can adequately convey what the University and all those who Tom has touched through hockey are feeling," said RMU Director of Athletics Megan Smith-Eggert. "There is a genuine gratitude for what he built here at RMU. With those solid foundations in place, the RMU hockey program and our student-athletes will move forward and continue to excel both on the ice and in the classroom."