WEST HAVEN >> Amity hockey coach Gary Lindgren, a man who enjoys his privacy and prefers to push his players and assistant coaches into the limelight, is used to making adjustments. Every year he has to survive the graduation of talented players.
Surviving the loss of talent and making those adjustments is why he has been one of the most successful coaches in Division II over the years. But entering this season, Lindgren had to adjust to more than just graduated players. He found out he had cancer.
Lindgren, who recently completed an eight-week program that involved weekly chemotherapy treatments, has made appearances at some practices and been on the bench for games when he feels up to it.
Before the season, he appointed assistant coach Mike “Scooter” Richetelli as interim coach.
“I missed being out there full-time this season, but I’m alright,” Lindgren said. “The cancer is in remission and things are fine. Going through that eight-week treatment, I had my good days and bad days. But you do what you have to do and you get through it.
“I’ve been getting such tremendous support from Scooter and my assistant coaches (Todd Dandelske, Don Linley, Brian Gonsalves), our players, friends, family, everyone. It’s been hard for my wife (Laura), but she has been a rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her. My daughters (Erika and Carly) and my wife have been my main strength through this.”
Lindgren had no idea he was sick. It took a bad hop to the face in a game of softball, a sport he loves almost as much as hockey, to ultimately find out he had cancer.
In September, in the playoffs of an over-50 league in Milford, Lindgren was playing shortstop. He went to make a play, but the ball took a bad bounce and hit him in his mouth. He broke his jawbone and lost a tooth. The oral surgeon he went to noticed a bump on his neck and told Lindgren he should have it checked.
It turned out to be a cyst. During surgery on Nov. 20, doctors discovered that behind the cyst was a cancerous tumor in his lymph nodes. On Dec. 2 he had another surgery and 29 lymph nodes were removed along with his tonsils, which also contained cancer.
He missed the first two and a half weeks of his 15th season coaching Amity.
“Gary’s doing fine and he’ll get through this,” Richetelli said. “He’s still the coach of this team. I’m basically just handling the administrative duties.”
Lindgren said after the second surgery there were still some cancer cells in the area, and that’s why he had to go through the eight weeks of treatment.
“We’ve got some great, hard-working players and coach Richetelli has done a great job,” said Adam Shea, one of the top forwards and captains for the Spartans. “But we’ve had some great motivation to get as far as the Division II championship game. With Coach getting sick, it’s made all of us work harder for him and get here for him.
“He’s always in our hearts and in our minds. We want to be able to get him another state title.”
Lindgren won Division II titles in 2008 and 2010.
“I feel good,” Lindgren said. “Watching the team succeed and get this far has been great. Scooter has done a great job coaching.”
Lindgren was on the bench for Amity’s 5-4 semifinal win over SCC-SWC foe Milford on Monday. Lindgren will be back on the bench for today’s championship game. He also hopes to return to his guidance counselor position at Amity in a few weeks.
“I’m looking forward to that championship game,” Lindgren said. “It should be a good one against a very tough, well-coached Hand team. Getting to this point says a lot about my coaches and players.
“While this has been an adjustment for me, it’s been just as big an adjustment for all of them as well.”
Who will win the Class LL boys soccer championship?
No. 2 Hall (18-1-1)
No 8 Glastonbury (15-3-2)
Total Response: 197 Votes
DIVISION II STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
- No. 2 AMITY vs. No. 13 HAND
- When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Ingalls Rink, New Haven
- Championship history: Amity makes its third appearance in the final with titles in 2008 and 2010. Hand makes its third appearance with a title in 2006 and runner-up finish in 2004 (lost to North Haven).
- Players to watch: Amity: Adam Shea, F, Sr.; Brett McNeil, F, Sr.; Kevin Ryan, F, Jr.; John Uscilla, D, Sr.; Dalton Luciani, D, Jr.; Brian Mosher, G, Sr.; Hand: Ben Solin, F, Jr.; Dan Braumann, F, Sr.; Mike Belliveau, F, So.; Dan Healey, D, Sr.; Jeff Rider, D, So.; Chase Briggs, D, Sr.
- Why Amity will win: Amity (17-8) has a solid goalie and the kind of depth — skating two and sometimes three lines — that can make it competitive with many Division I teams.
- Why Hand will win: Hand (13-10) has a speedy, high-scoring first line that can match Amity’s. But the lack of depth makes Briggs, one of the best D-II goalies in the state, a key factor for the Tigers.
- You should know: Amity defeated Hand 6-3 in their regular-season meeting.