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Maine Treasures Off-Ice Victories: Giving Back to The Local Community

By Ross Forman, 03/14/24, 3:00PM CDT


The season ended earlier than co-op Maine Township hoped for, as the No. 8-seed was upended in overtime, 4-3, by No. 9 Belvidere in a sweet 16 round game of the Illinois High School Hockey State Tournament.

  However, the off-ice memories this season for Maine will last long past any goals, assists, shutouts and powerplays. Particularly, the team’s community involvement to support others.

  Senior left-wing Jack Stelter, 18, a Park Ridge resident who attends Maine South High School and played two seasons on the Maine varsity, said the team’s community events were always enjoyable. “It was great to see my teammates outside of the rink, doing meaningful work in our community,” he said. “As a team, we gain perspective of the world around us, making us better teammates and people.” Stelter, who formerly skated for the Glenview Stars, is a pass-first grinder for the IHSHL West Division team. Giving back to the community is “very important,” he said. “I have been in Boy Scouts for 12 years and received the rank of Eagle, so giving back has long been part of my life,” he said. “Being able to provide a bit of joy during the Christmas holidays to struggling families brings a smile to my face. I know that such a simple gesture provides comfort and hope to the families.” 

  In mid-season, Maine players put up the Christmas lights for a local family that was grieving for the loss of its mother. “My favorite moment of the community events this season was after we finished putting up the Christmas lights, the family came out and thanked us. It felt good to see how much they appreciated it,” Stelter said. Stelter was as proud, in the cold, helping a local family as winning the Illinois West Championship last year against Waubonsie in a best-of-three series.

  Maine also this season promoted hockey to the special needs community and much more. “We have done everything from stuffing swag bags to holiday decorating,” Stelter said. “We volunteered at the Compass to Care Bubble Fun Run which provides funds to help parents pay for the necessary travel expenses to get their children to cancer treatment. We also participated in the Horner Hustle 5K Project Purple Fun Run which provides funds for pancreatic cancer research.  “Additionally, we worked at the Coach Fitz Golf Outing. Coach Fitz was my former JV coach, and this golf outing provides local youth the opportunity to continue a sport or join a sport for the first time. We also helped at Park Ridge Newcomers Labor of Love event.”

  Maine senior goalie Ryan Besenjak, 18, a Park Ridge resident who also attends Maine South, said the team’s off-ice community involvement was “super cool.”

“It’s really nice to see how embedded the team has become with Park Ridge and all the District 207 schools,” he said. “It’s been such an amazing experience. I’m glad I can use my time to help people and make the community better. Another reason I enjoy giving back is that it can bridge gaps. Whenever I volunteer, we all work for a common goal, for something we hope to achieve.”

 Besenjak, who formerly played for the Glenview Stars, was a three-year varsity goalie. He was a two-time Illinois West champion, a two-time Illinois West All-Star, and once was the All-Star Game MVP.

 He led Maine to a shutout win over Waubonsie in game one of the best-of-three 2023 Illinois West Finals.

 Besenjak said the club will volunteer for multiple races this spring and summer in and around Park Ridge. “Last December, we did an event with Hawk Pals, a club (at Maine South) for students with special needs, befriending and engaging with the students. We played floor hockey and did hockey drills with the Hawk Pals and it was a super fun experience.  “It also prompted some of the Hawk Pals kids to come to our games, which was super cool to see.”

Besenjak said the team’s community projects “create a stronger bond throughout the organization. Doing these events strengthened our bond with the schools, players and community. It gives us a good reputation and something that people remember when they come see us play.” Besenjak added: “When we do these community events, some people don’t even know that (District 207) has a (co-op) hockey team. This has been a great way to reach out to more people and have people come to our games. “My twin brother has special needs (autism spectrum disorder) and is in Hawk Pals. Doing the event and getting to see my teammates bond with him and other Hawk Pals was something special and something I will never forget. It teaches us all a lesson that kindness can go a long way.”

  Maine went 6-9 in the Illinois West Tiering Round, then a perfect 8-0 in the 5-team Bronze Seeding Round. Maine ultimately defeated the DuPage Stars to capture the Varsity McKeague Cup championship.

 “My season highlight was just being able to play at our home rink, Oakton Ice Arena,” Stelter said. “This rink will be closed starting in March for major renovations, so this was the last season to play in the ‘old Oakton.’ It was a nice way to finish out my high school hockey career.”

Stelter played this season alongside Ryan Moore and Michael Spatola. Stelter tagged his dad as “the biggest influence” on his career “because he is the one who got me into the sport and he pushed me to be a better person on and off the ice.” Stelter is still undecided on his college plans, though he is leaning toward attending Michigan State or Purdue University to study business.

“I have been happy with my play this season. It’s been cool to see my improvement throughout my high school hockey career,” he said.”

  Besenjak said his season highlight was Ryan Goff scoring in the final :10 seconds of Maine’s Senior Night Game to beat Hinsdale Central, 4-3. “Winning (that game) in front of a packed Oakton Ice Arena felt so rewarding,” he said. Besenjak praised his parents who have been “very influential” on his career. “They provide encouraging words and drove me to practices and games for most of my time playing hockey. Their dedication and commitment to my love for the sport is the reason I still play today,” he said. Besenjak will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the fall.



SLAPSHOTS WITH … Maine Forward Jack Stelter

Favorite NHL Team: Detroit Red Wings

Favorite NHL Player: Gordie Howe

Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle

Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad

Favorite Pre-game Meal: Pasta

Favorite app: Snapchat

Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Connor Bedard 

Best Hockey Tip: “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky

Hardest Slapshot on Maine Township: George Lohens

Most Accurate Shot: Shawn Chansed

Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Ryan Besenjak

Best High School Uniforms (other than Maine): “The black York jersey.”


STOPPING SLAPSHOTS … Maine Goalie Ryan Besenjak

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Favorite NHL Player: Thatcher Demko

Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Moneyball

Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad

Favorite Pre-game Meal: Chicken tenders and fries

Favorite app: Brawl Stars

Hardest Slapshot on Maine Township: Jack Koteles

Most Accurate Shot: Sean Chansed

Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Hayden Weber

Best High School Uniforms (other than Maine): Glenbrook South’s black jerseys