Community goes beyond hockey for the DelCastillos

DelCastillo might be a familiar name for some associated with Coon Rapids youth hockey because six of Doc and Sue DelCastillo’s seven daughters, ages five to 17, are part of nearly every level of the program.

Britni is a senior, Brandi is a sophomore, Bryna is a freshman, Brooke plays U10, Brylei plays U8 and Bradi plays mites.

The family moved into the community after Doc took over the Hamline University men’s hockey team in the summer of 2012. He left a head coaching job with the Alexandria Blizzard, a member of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), for a chance at a dream job having grown up three blocks from the St. Paul campus and graduating from Hill-Murray High School in the 1980s.

The DelCastillos pose for their 2012 Christmas card photo. Daughters Bryna, Brook, Brandi, Britni, Brylei and Bradi wear the Coon Rapids Cardinals sweater while mom Sue and dad Doc wear the Hamline University colors where Doc is head coach.

The DelCastillos pose for their 2012 Christmas card photo. Daughters Bryna, Brook, Brandi, Britni, Brylei and Bradi wear the Coon Rapids Cardinals sweater while mom Sue and dad Doc wear the Hamline University colors where Doc is head coach.Submitted photo

“It’s really come full circle for me and it’s fun to be working back in the neighborhood where I grew up,” DelCastillo said, never imagining he would coach the Pipers after watching them as a kid.

The full circle part is literal because DelCastillo has coached at various levels from juniors to college in St. Cloud; Omaha, Neb.; Fairbanks, Alaska, and Alexandria.

According to DelCastillo, while he has been developing his coaching credentials, Sue has been close to a single parent during the winter hockey months for many of their 21 years of marriage.

“It’s really tough when you have a job like myself where I’m tied into coaching the team and recruiting duties, it really puts my wife at a disadvantage,” he said.

“We’ve learned to ask for help,” Sue said, paging through the family’s schedule for various practices, games and family outings.

DelCastillo gets to do his part of the parenting when he is way from other coaching duties, Sue said. “He really likes to see the younger ones to see their progress from year-to-year,” she said.

Britni, a senior at Coon Rapids, pitches in to drive her sisters to various rinks, too. Brandi and Bryna help out with directions to reach the right place at the right time.

Three DelCastillo sisters skating for the Coon Rapids varsity team are from left are Britni, a senior; Bryna, a freshman; and Brandi, a sophomore. Britni is tied for the team lead with three shots on goal for the 0-2 Cardinals.

Three DelCastillo sisters skating for the Coon Rapids varsity team are from left are Britni, a senior; Bryna, a freshman; and Brandi, a sophomore. Britni is tied for the team lead with three shots on goal for the 0-2 Cardinals. Photo by Jason Olson

Fellow Coon Rapids families have helped the family connect the dots for practices, games or other outings.

Last May the community was called into action at a different level after Sue suffered a stroke.

Sue was a multiple-time all-American track athlete at St. Cloud State University in the hurdles and triple jump. DelCastillo played four seasons with the Huskies including as captain as a senior.

“She’s always been the athletic one where I got by on hard work,” DelCastillo said, which has made the recovery tough to watch, knowing her determination. “It hit us all hard but she’s done great,” he said.

Sue had surgery to repair a hole in her heart and is making progress, but the outpouring of support from the area is what touched the DelCastillos the most.

According to Britni, Brandi and Bryna, it was tough because their mother did so much for everyone else and then everyone stepped in to help them out.

Family and friends helped organize meals, transportation, trips to the grocery store and other ways of showing their support.

“It was all very overwhelming,” Sue said. “It was a huge blessing for us to have the support as a new family and to be welcomed in with open arms from the beginning was a huge help.”

Even Brylei’s Coon Rapids U8 teammates made baskets for the family full of treats to show their support.

Sue is working to get back to 100 percent and she had a very promising six-month check-up recently with speech therapy coming to an end soon. She knows her limitations, especially in the afternoon, so she concentrates to get as many things accomplished in the morning as possible, according to Sue.

“It will be challenging this hockey season,” Sue said, but the help from the community continues.

“It’s amazing how the community stepped up to take care of our family,” DelCastillo said, pointing out the help from Nicole Scott and her husband, Coon Rapids Activities Director Kelley Scott.

Brooke DelCastillo and Kylie Scott were teammates on a U8 team last winter.

“I followed my wife’s lead on that and she jumped into friend mode,” Scott said. “The DelCastillos would do that for someone in need too. They’re part of us. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been there. They have six girls making a commitment and it makes it easy to do stuff when you know it would be reciprocated.”

The Scotts took care of the three elder DelCastillos, Britni, Brandi and Bryna, after Sue went to the hospital.

They organized rides to the rink, meals or whatever else was needed. “It was a family thing – way more than a team [need],” Scott said. “When you start to spend so much time together, you really get to know each other.”

Scott first met the family when Sue was looking for the proper school district after they moved into the community.

Being a hockey family that has moved 12 times, DelCastillo looks at their unique situation two ways. The frequent moves take a toll on the budding friendships but after nearly one-dozen moves, he said the girls have learned how to build new relationships quickly.

“Fortunately, they are able to find friends and become part of the community very fast,” DelCastillo said. “How many other kids can say they have friends all around the world?”

They lived in Alaska from  September-May and during that time had many unique experiences like waking up to a moose within feet of the living room picture window. “It was a great experience but was very extreme, cold and dark,” DelCastillo said. “But the people were very nice.”

He road tripped with the three older daughters up to Alaska in a 50-foot trailer, too.

On the opposite side, DelCastillo said the ugly side of coaching came in the form of being fired as head coach after one season at Alaska-Fairbanks. “We tried to keep that away from the kids but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and to say you lived in Alaska for a year, most kids can’t say that,” he said.

Sue said she’s developed a healthy passion for the game and now the younger kids look up to the older ones on the ice. “We took them out on the ice and they’ve grown up around hockey teams and players,” she said. “[The younger girls] have a whole new perspective that they want to be like them.”

Sue’s biggest reward is “that they all have a passion for [hockey] and it’s a common thread that really bonds our family,” she said. “It’s so fun to watch them progress.”

Each daughter has her own personality that shows through on the ice.

Sue characterized Britni the most like Doc, “She’s the hardest worker,” she said.

Bryna, “is the scrapper.” She played on an Omaha boys’ team and was the youngest player by far. She is also the runner of the family and captured the Northwest Suburban Conference cross country title and ran in the state meet in her first varsity season.

Brooke is the pure goal-scorer of the group. “She can find the net and just turned 10,” Sue said. “When she goes top shelf she says,’I’m taking the peanut butter off the top shelf.’”

Brylei is seven years old and the first sister to take an interest between the pipes. “We’ve been lucky to avoid that so far,” Sue said. “But she still plays a lot out of the net.”

Bradi, five years old, is in her second season of mites. “We’ll wait and see but she’s kind of like Bryna – not afraid,” Sue said.

Coon Rapids girls’ varsity head coach Jessica Christopherson has coached four of DelCastillos between high school and mite teams.

Christopherson said the family has been nothing short of a welcome addition to the community.

“It was great to see everyone come together to help the family,” she said.

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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