Life lesson from friend of coach Luke Richardson

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Coaches and players have friends and family attend games all the time, but Chicago Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson thought one of his old buddies from Ottawa, Ontario, Barrie Robillard, could set an example for his players.

“It’s a good story. He’s in town on his last little vacation because he’s doing a surgery,” Richardson said before Thursday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center. “He’s donating a kidney to a high school friend.”

Richardson, who wore an Ottawa fire department T-shirt given to him by Robillard, a fire chief, added, “I told the players about it yesterday. It’s one of the most selfless things someone could do to save someone’s life and puts it in perspective that we’re here doing a job at the highest level and enjoying it. Let’s do it well today because there are other things that are more important in life.”

Robillard and another friend, Steve Monuk, both 59, picked Thursday’s game because it was Richardson versus Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy — all four hail from the same neighborhood in Ottawa.

“(Barrie’s) donating one of his kidneys to an old friend of ours, so a real nice gesture on his part,” Cassidy said. “I met Barrie on my first hockey team when I was 7 or 8years old. So good to see them here.”

Robillard is scheduled to have surgery Jan. 12.

The friend, Saul Mogelonsky, has experienced kidney failure and had been looking for a compatible donor.

“He’s on one kidney at 4% right now,” Robillard told the Tribune. “He has dialysis three times a day and he hooks into it at night.”

Robillard wrestled with the decision “for a long time” but brought information about kidney donation on a recent trip to Greece with his 15-year-old daughter and wife, and as a family, they read up on it and talked about it.

Steve Monuk (left) and Barrie Robillard take in the first period of a game between the Blackhawks and the Golden Knights at the United Center on Dec. 15, 2022.

“After that I said, ‘I want to do it.’ And (my wife) supports it,” Robillard said. “And so then when I came back, I said, ‘Saul, I want to do it.’ And he didn’t know, he never asked me. But I knew that he needed one.”

When Robillard told Mogelonsky on Aug. 1, he said his friend was “overwhelmed.” Robillard recalled him saying, “ ‘Are you sure?’ He’s asked me quite a few times. ‘You don’t have to do this.’ “

A personal tragedy helped inspire Robillard’s decision.

“Barrie already lost a young daughter to cancer,” Monuk said of Molly, who died of brain cancer eight years ago at age 12.

Robillard said, “Part of the reason why I wanted to do it is when I was in the hospital with her, I wanted to try to donate bone marrow, but I was too old. .

“So that was always in the back of my mind: That if I could do something sometime — and the kidney came up — so that’s part of the reason. And I think my daughter knew Saul and she liked him.He was really nice to her, so she would support this call.”

Monuk said while everyone admires Robillard’s gesture, there’s still some level of worry.

“(The potential of) losing another family member, for his wife and daughter, is very concerning,” Monuk said of Robillard’s surgery, which would leave him with one kidney. “But they talked about it (and) they think that the risk is enough to help someone else with their life.”

In honor of Robillard’s gesture, Richardson wanted to do something nice for him and gave him and Monuk two seats on the 100 level at the United Center.

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Monuk, who coached Richardson in youth baseball, keeps in touch with him and Cassidy.

“I went to their first game that they coached against (each other) in Vegas. And this was a good opportunity for Barrie to come and see them and enjoy maybe a few refreshments for the last time,” Monuk laughed.

“I just talked to Bruce and Luke and told him Barrie was coming and what he was doing for Saul.”

Richardson said of his childhood friends, “I was the young kid kicking around..”

After Robillard has his surgery, he’s going to step away after 39 years as a firefighter.

“I’m going to retire at the end of the month,” he said.

Said Monuk: “Barrie’s always been an unselfish person. It just shows the character of him, the trauma he’s went through in his life, but no matter what he always thinks of other people.”



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