In addition to the induction of the four newest members of the Lake Forest College Athletic Hall of Fame, the Athletic Recognition Ceremony at Homecoming on Saturday, October 5, will also include the presentation of the F.A.N. Club Golden Whistle Award to longtime assistant hockey coach Ken Klein.
Klein began his 18-year run on the Forester men's hockey coaching staff in 1992. He assisted head coach Tony Fritz in nearly all facets of the program, directed the team's goaltenders, and for several seasons served as the junior varsity head coach. Seven different goalies earned All-Northern Collegiate Hockey Association or Honorable Mention All-NCHA accolades and the team's Most Valuable Player award went to an individual at that position six times during his tenure. From 2001 to 2009, four Forester goalies ranked among the top 20 in the country in save percentage at least twice each, including the national leader in that category in 2003-04.
While several Foresters excelled as hockey players under Klein's direction, he and his family also made an impact on them off the ice. Brandon Kuhuch, a Forester from 2005 to 2009 who ranks second in program history with 2,010 career saves, continues to value their relationship. "Coach Klein made me a better goaltender and also became a mentor and friend during my four years at the College," he recalls. "In addition, his wife always took time to talk to me and treated me with genuine care every time I saw her and I have been fortunate to be able to watch his sons grow up from being young equipment managers hanging around the locker room to young businessmen, including one as my co-worker. I have had only great experiences with all of them and I could not be happier for him to receive this well-deserved award."
Fritz, who retired from the College in 2010 after 32 seasons as the Foresters' head coach, also valued his time on and off the ice with Klein. "Ken was the ultimate assistant coach," he recalls. "He was always very loyal to me while at the same time being exactly what the players needed in terms of a coach and advisor. Having Ken on staff was like having an additional head coach who was always extremely supportive of everyone in the program, especially me. In addition, he was and still is a tremendous husband and father and a true friend."
"I feel very fortunate to have been a coach at Lake Forest College for 18 years and on the same staff as coaching legend Tony Fritz," began Klein. "I had the pleasure of working with so many men and women from the ice hockey programs, as well as fellow coaches. I also feel grateful to have seen the players grow as student-athletes and successful adults."
Klein also worked with the Forester women's hockey team's goaltenders under then head coach Carisa Wahlig from 2002 to 2008, helping two of them earn All-NCHA honors and one All-American status. In more recent years he has been involved with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association sled hockey program and is well-known and highly-regarded throughout the community in and around nearby Lake Bluff, where he resides.
"Ken was very helpful my first few years, especially with his ability to connect with our goalies," recalled Wahlig. "He was there at a pivotal time for the program when we really needed our goalies to be at their best for every game and he helped make that happen."
The Golden Whistle Award is one of the F.A.N. Club's two major honors and recognizes members of the Forester community who, over several years, have made significant contributions to Lake Forest College Athletics and its Tradition of Excellence as a coach. Klein will join Dick Triptow and Reid Ingersoll as the only individuals to have received the award.
"This is a coveted award," noted Vice President for Career Advancement and Athletics Jackie Slaats. "We are celebrating the 25th year of the F.A.N. Club and I cannot think of a more fitting person to honor than Ken, who has made so many contributions to the College and the community."
The Forester Athletic Recognition Ceremony on October 5 will be held in Calvin Durand Hall in the Mohr Student Center/Stuart Commons (located on the College's Middle Campus) and will begin at 10:00 a.m. Klein will also be part of the Homecoming Parade at 11:30 a.m. and will be honored on the field at halftime of the football team's game against Knox College, which begins at 2:00 p.m.