A stroke in February caused Blake girls' hockey coach Brano Stankovsky to miss the Bears' section playoff semifinal and final games.
Upon returning home from the hospital, Stankovsky received a text message from junior forward Dani Cameranesi urging him to work hard for her. After all, Stankovsky promised to work hard for Cameranesi throughout her senior season.
Stankovsky's recovery had him visiting Blake last Friday. He spoke with activities director Jim Lindsay about scheduling games for next season. The Bears' postseason banquet, which the girls requested be postponed until Stankovsky could attend, was scheduled for next week.
"Everybody was very optimistic he would recover," Lindsay said. "I told him that I'm stepping down at the end of the year but he said, 'Well, I'm coming back.'"
Stankovsky, 56, died Tuesday morning from complications caused by a more recent stroke.
Stankovsky compiled a record of 290-74-19 in 14 seasons at Blake. He led his team to nine conference championships and four state tournament appearances. The Bears won Class 1A titles in 2003, 2007 and 2009. Stankovsky won Blake's Pete Parks Coach of the Year Award in 2007 and was named the Minnesota Class 1A Coach of the Year in 2009.
He will be remembered most for his contributions off the ice.
"He was a mentor to me, a friend and a father figure," Cameranesi said. "He taught us how to carry ourselves with class and dignity."
Stankovsky's commitment to girls' hockey was felt beyond Blake's program. Stankovsky, whose given name was Branislav, wrote recommendation letters to college hockey programs on behalf of girls who played at other high schools, said long-time friend Keith Radloff, a former Blake assistant coach.
"He was a man of high integrity who did whatever he could for the sport," said Radloff, the Orono girls' hockey coach.
Stankovsky is survived by wife Margret, son Trevor and daughters Molly and Angie.
Details about a memorial service are expected later.
Lindsay, in a school news release, said: "The family wishes to thank everyone for their ongoing support and prayers during this difficult time. Brano will be remembered for the many, many blessings his friendship bestowed upon us."