Highland Park hockey coach retiring after 75 years

"Skate fast – skate hard – have fun."

If you played hockey in Highland Park anytime over the last 50 years, you might recognize that slogan. Now, the coach who made it famous is retiring just shy of his 97th birthday.

Coach Wally Kormylo, 96, announced he is retiring after leading dozens of local and national hockey teams and spending a total of 75 years in the game of hockey.

"I did at one time work with Wayne Gretzky for two weeks in Canada, for an hour every day to work on his skating," said Kormylo. "My profession was the power skating, making the skaters faster."

Kormylo coached generations of young talent in Highland Park, most recently with the Falcons program.

"I've had at least 20 state championships and every one was exciting," he said. "I always got excited."

"He stayed for a while. He could have retired 20 years ago, maybe!" said 12-year-old Fritz Lincoln, who played for Coach Wally.

FOX 32 asked Coach Wally what kept him in the game more than 30 years past the standard retirement age. His answer was simple: "I just love it. I love hockey."

"It's just been a great life," said Darlene, who he's been married to him for almost 68 years. "He's done something that he's loved from the time he started."

Kormylo started skating at age two in his native Canada, and came to the U.S. at age 20, performing in a traveling ice show where he jumped barrels and performed tricks. He and his wife Darlene eventually settled in Highland Park, impacting generations of hockey players.

"My grandma was actually taught by him, power-skating long time ago," said Fritz Lincoln.

"He's coached me and all my brothers on the Mite 1 team. We won the championship that year. He's always been a great coach. A positive coach and it's sad to see him retire," said 12-year-old Cole Nelson.

"I feel real, real sad and happy," said Coach Wally. "Happy that I've seen these kids improve, and sad that I can't still be with them."