Wolves’ chairman a hockey dad, too

Chicago Wolves Chairman of the Board Don Levin sometimes gets laughed at by his head coach.

“I wanted my son Robert to be in a house league [for hockey], so we wouldn’t have to travel,” Levin said. “So when I’m going to Michigan or Wisconsin for Robert’s games, John Anderson laughs at me because I’m doing what he did with his two boys.”

Even though Levin presides over a Chicago-based, multi-national company, he isn’t immune to the rigors of being a hockey parent.

“Between the Wolves and my son’s hockey, I’m literally at the ice rink everyday during the winter. You always have to take your kid to the ice rink, unless you are so lucky that you live one block from a rink and the kid has equipment he can carry. It’s a commitment on the parents’ part,” said Levin, who runs DRL Enterprises. “The good part is that you spend a whole lot of time with your child. The bad part is that you’re spending time with a child that’s winning or losing. It’s not easy. What intrigues me is how people with two or three kids playing travel hockey do it. You’re living in a rink.”

Robert, who turned 12 years old in September, currently plays for the Highland Park Falcons. He started as a forward, but switched and became a goalie a few years ago.

“[The switch] wasn’t my choice, it was his. He was a forward for a couple of years and he was the leading scorer on his team,” Levin said. “He likes the action in net. He’s quick and he’s got a great glove.”

Because most youth organizations struggle to teach goaltenders, Levin has encouraged his son to get outside instruction and advice. Thus, Robert has chatted with Wolves all-star goaltender Kari Lehtonen about the position and annually attends several hockey camps, including Wolves assistant coach Wendell Young‘s goaltending camp – which is his favorite – in July.

While knowledgeable about the game himself, Levin doesn’t feel qualified to coach his son. But, they will discuss every game.

“The only thing I tell him is not to get frazzled. When that happens, he starts losing his angles and doing a lot of things wrong,” he said. “If he lets in a bad goal and he looks nervous, I’ll walk over and say, ‘Calm down. Look what you’re doing. Pretend the game is 0-0 and get into the game again.’ Sometimes after games I have to talk to him and say, ‘It’s only a game and if you’re not having fun you shouldn’t be playing.’

“Robert has gotten a lot better; if he lets in one or two he’s not going to get down on himself. He’s a good little goalie.”

Last year Robert captured the Blackhawk Cup, backstopping the Falcons to the 2004 Tier B PeeWee state championship. During the playoffs, Robert surrendered only five goals in five games en route to the title.

“That moment when he was in the net for the final second of the championship was impressive to watch,” Levin said. “All the kids came off the bench, threw their gloves in the air and jumped on top of him. These kids all came together and worked so hard to do it, and to see Robert at the focal point, skating with the cup, that was fun.”

It’s enough to turn those laughs into smiles.