Woodstock's Rewiako named coach of the month
To say that Woodstock resident and Prairie Ridge High School varsity hockey coach, Rick Rewiako, was surprised to receive a phone call from the Chicago Blackhawks is a bit of an understatement. Rewiako’s surprise quickly turned to shock when learning the Blackhawks intended to honor him during their Feb. 23 game as the BMO Harris Bank Coach of the Month.
“When I got a phone call from the Blackhawks, I was a little confused why they would be calling me,” said Rewiako. “Then I was informed of the coaching award, so it was a nice thing.”
The award, which honors a youth hockey coach and player each month during the Blackhawks regular season, is based on performance both on and off the ice. Rewiako was nominated, unbeknownst to him, by a parent of one of his squad’s senior captains.
Encouraging his players to perform off the ice is something Rewiako has stressed since becoming involved with the Prairie Ridge program eight years ago as an assistant coach. The recently finished season was Rewiako’s second as head coach of the program.
“Our No. 1 focus is the kids’ grades,” said Rewiako, whose varsity squad boasts a cumulative 3.5 GPA. “These student-athletes all understand, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s about the classroom. High school sports [are] a privilege. If you’re not getting the good grades, you’re not going to be playing.”
In addition to stressing grades, Rewiako encourages his players to maintain a strong involvement within their communities. He and his players participate annually in the breast cancer walk, and recently nine of his players shaved their heads for St. Baldrick’s Day, raising more than $3,000 for the fight against cancer.
“It’s the stuff outside of hockey that I like that the kids focus on,” said Rewiako. “We’re lucky we don’t have the issues, but there are kids out there that do.”
While focusing on doing right by his players, Rewiako also has managed to oversee an extremely successful program in terms of winning. Ranked consistently in the top 10 in Illinois in previous seasons, PRHS was ranked No. 11 going into this year’s playoffs. The Wolves topped Lake Forest High School 7-0 in the first round before dropping a heartbreaker 2-0 to Carl Sandburg High School, a team they outshot 27-13.
“We controlled the game, but they just had a hot goaltender, and we couldn’t get the puck by him,” said Rewiako. “It was a tough loss for us with eight seniors going out from the varsity team. Those kids wanted it.”
Rewiako, who has worked fulltime for the city of McHenry Police Department for 11 years, has lived in Woodstock since 2002. He has been involved with hockey his entire life and brings vast experience to the teams he coaches.
A native of Michigan, Rewiako played youth hockey and then high school hockey for Notre Dame High School in Detroit. After high school, Rewiako played two years of junior hockey in Southern Ontario before moving on to play in the U.S. for the Saginaw Gears of the North American Hockey League. After making the rounds, Rewiako was able to realize a life-long dream to play college hockey — for the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio.
“Being able to play college hockey, that was a dream goal for me,” said Rewiako. “Being able to play against the Ohio States and the Michigan States – I was able to do that. That was a big goal for me.”
Rewiako places the coach of the month award among the top five accomplishments of his hockey career thus far. He was a guest of the Blackhawks for their Feb. 23 game against the Dallas Stars and was honored between periods.
“I want to continue to coach when I retire from the police department and go on to coach either junior hockey or college hockey,” said Rewiako. “It’ll be nice to look back and have that award.”