The untimely death of Rick Spitzack last week robbed not only the Owatonna Express of one of the team’s top boosters, but also of someone who was a big part of the team’s existence and lifeblood.
Because of the role he played with the team, his death at age 47 is a loss not only to the hockey team, but to the community as a whole.
When Owatonna’s former Junior A hockey team, known as the Southern Minnesota Express, decided to leave town, Mr. Spitzack played a pivotal role in getting the North American Hockey League to grant Owatonna another expansion team in just a few months.
Once the team was here, he wasn’t finished contributing to its ongoing success. He was a member of the team’s board of directors and the volunteer coordinator, making sure that all the jobs that needed to get done were getting done.
Both of the jobs, which took great time and energy, paid nothing. Mr. Spitzack, it seems, did it for the love of the game, the love of the team and the love of the community.
Indeed, when Express general manager and vice president Rick Kolz heard of his death, he summed up what Mr. Spitzack meant to the team, calling him the team’s cheerleader and “pep guy.”
A team such as the Express is important to a community because of how it can bring a town together to cheer for a common champion and to support a common goal.
This team is no different, particularly in its current incarnation as a community-owned and supported program. Because of that community backing, the town is made the richer. And it is the people who support the team that make it and our community stronger.
In its mission statement, the Express sum it up: “We help each other succeed. We are a team of stakeholders, billet families, volunteers, players, coaches, staff and supporters, sharing our unique talents to help those with whom we work, live and serve. The diverse thinking and decision-making abilities of our people strengthens our team... We strive to understand the big picture, then do our individual parts. We know that by working together, we can produce better results than any of us can achieve alone.”
No one in the Express organization personified that spirit more than Rick Spitzack. The team and the community are lessened by his death.
The Express’ silent auction continues some great fan items, as well as certificates for hockey clinics and Minnesota Wild tickets.
The auction will end during the Express’ game against Albert Lea on Sunday, Feb. 15.
For more information, visit expressjrhockey.org/Auction.html.