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Dec 27th, 2009


Pat Forte suffered a setback this year around Easter with a relapse of thymic carcinoid, but has fought back courageously, sustained by his strong Christian faith, the prayers and support of his many friends, and excellent medical care at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.

pat-forte_yard-cleanup_2009-04-26
Pat and Nico Forte with the Sartell Sabres hockey team after their spring yard clean-up at Pat’s home.

We thank God for sustaining Pat to spend another Christmas with Nico and giving him the health and strength to assist with coaching the Sartell Sabres Varsity hockey team.

Check back here and visit Pat’s Caring Bridge site for updates.

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3/15/2010 Update

Pat Forte of Sartell-St. Stephen was named Section 6A Assistant Coach of the Year for 2010 by the boys hockey coaches’ association.

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6/11/2012 Update

Train Show Awes Youths, Parents


Nico Forte, 11, Sartell, asks his dad, Pat, a question about an HO scale model train display Sunday, June 10, 2012 at the free model train show in Bernick’s Arena in Sartell. Forte loves trains and has his own set. He came to the show to get ideas for creating his own layout.  (Photo credit: Kimm Anderson / St. Cloud Times)

By Ben Katzner
St. Cloud Times
June 11, 2012

Excerpts

SARTELL — One of the last events of Sartell’s SummerFest  was the model train show at Bernick’s Arena. …

At first glance the show seemed to be about aficionados and their models, but a closer looked revealed the event’s true duties. It was more than just trains; it was about enthralling a  new generation of train lovers, too. …

For 11-year-old Nico Forte and his father, Pat, no matter how large the set it’s the little things that keep their attention.

“The amount of detail is really cool,” an excited Nico Forte said. “And I like that they’re professional here and I can ask them a question and they’ll answer it.” …

The youthful exuberance seemed to be contagious as many adults had smiles, too.

“The best part is spending time with my son,” Pat Forte said. “It’s great because this is his passion and it’s fun for me to see him enjoy something and really get into it and kind of nurture his passions.”

Full story

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12/13/2016 Update

The Fight Continues for Forte


Former area hockey coach Pat Forte talks about receiving ‘Spirit of Life’ award from U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and drawing inspiration in his ongoing cancer battle. (Duration: 01:05)

By Frank Rajkowski
St. Cloud Times
December 12, 2016

SARTELL — Pat Forte was originally given six months.

That was back in February of 2006, when the former head boys high school hockey coach at Brainerd and St. Cloud Apollo was first diagnosed with thymic carcinoid cancer — an extremely rare form of the disease that attacked his heart and lungs.

It’s more than 10 years later and Forte is still here. But the battle continues on a daily basis.

“In the last eight months, I’ve had my adrenal glands removed,” said Forte, who had already lost his right lung during the opening stages of his fight against the illness.

“Then just a few weeks after that, one of my neighbors found me in bed unresponsive and got me to the ER. The doctors told me I had an infection I had to ward off.

“I do chemo three days on and 18 days off each month. And in between, I deal with blood transfusions. I just heard from Mayo and they want me back down there again in January for more tests.

“So it’s an ongoing struggle.”

But through it all, Forte has tried to keep his spirits high.

He remained on the job as a sixth-grade teacher at Kennedy Elementary School until last May.

And he served as an assistant coach under Doug Schueller for three seasons at St. John’s before his health forced him to step away prior to last year.

“He was fantastic,” Schueller said. “He has such a smart hockey mind. He sees the game differently than a lot of people do — almost more like a spectator. He’s able to pick up different things and analyze them. Working with him helped me see the game in a different way.

“He didn’t bring up (his illness) a lot. But every once in awhile, he’d go into it. And he’d use it as motivation. It showed our guys things could always be a lot worse. Our players really respected him, and the fact that he was going through what he was and was still able to be out here with us.”

It’s precisely for that reason that Forte was recently given the “Spirit of Life” award from the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

pat-forte_1_sctimes_12-11-2016
Former Apollo High School head hockey coach Pat Forte holds his Spirit of Life award Tuesday, Dec. 6, in his home in Sartell. (Photo: Dave Schwarz / St. Cloud Times)

The award recognizes those who have overcome adversity and continued to have an impact on the sport. Forte is just the second recipient. The first was Jack Jablonski, the former Benilde-St. Margaret’s player who was paralyzed from the chest down during a JV game in December of 2011. He is now a student at the University of Southern California and has served as a communications intern with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

“We created the award to acknowledge people in the hockey community who have faced adverse situations in life, but have at the same time continued making an impact on the lives of others,” said Chaz Demm, a member of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors the past 12 years.

“When you look at what Pat has gone through for the past 10 years, it’s amazing. But he’s kept battling through all the adversity he’s had in his life. And he’s kept giving back to the St. Cloud area and to the local hockey community.”

Chaz Demm of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (left) and
Chaz Demm of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (left) and former coach Ron Castellano (right) present the ‘Spirit of Life’ award to former area hockey coach Pat Forte last month at the National Hockey Center. (Photo: Courtesy of Pat Forte)

Forte said he was humbled by the honor.

“That just blew me away,” he said. “Especially when they told me I was only the second recipient after Jack Jablonski. I’ve never met him. But I’ve been inspired by him. To go through what he’s gone through and achieve what he has is amazing.

“I used to keep a quote from him up when I was teaching: ‘I not only believe in miracles, I rely on them.’ That’s how I feel as well.”

Forte, who still resides at his home in Sartell, was divorced 13 years ago. But he keeps a close relationship with his son Nico, now 16.

Nico, who lives in Austin, plays football and golf. And his father was able to get down and watch him play on a couple of occasions this past fall.

He said he tries to enjoy every minute the two spend together, without letting his illness get in the way.

“It’s a balance,” Forte said. “You want to keep him in the know. But you don’t want him to ruin his childhood worrying about his Dad.

“I talk to him about it when the time is right. He knows he’s my No. 1 motivation to keep battling.”

And that battle continues, even as cancer takes its toll.

Pat Forte smiles in front of a photograph of him during
Pat Forte smiles in front of a photograph of him during his playing days Tuesday, Dec. 6, in his home in Sartell.  (Photo: Dave Schwarz / St. Cloud Times)

Forte said he’s been able to regain some strength through activities like underwater treadmill training at Country Manor in Sartell.

He still gets to hockey games, though he can’t be around the cold rinks in the wintertime as often as he’d like to be.

And he tries not to look too far ahead. Though he knows the serious odds that remain in front of him.

“I don’t think about (his long-term prognosis) all that much,” Forte said. “I just try to take it one day at a time. If I didn’t do that, this would drive me insane.

“It would be easy to throw in the towel. But I have so many positive people in my life who always know the right thing to say to keep me going. It’s actually amazing what the human body can endure if you have the will, and you’re blessed with a great support base like I am.”

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1/21/2017 Update

Pat Forte, Zach Parise’s Former Coach, Honored By Hockey Hall Of Fame

By Mike Max
WCCO
January 20, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Pat Forte grew up in hockey country: Eveleth, Minnesota – the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Every kid that grew up, they slid a pair of skates on,” Forte said.

He turned into a high-end high school player who had his career short-circuited.

“I was being pretty heavily recruited as a high school kid,” he said. “I had a rare knee disorder where I ended up having 16 knee operations because of it.”

Forte became a high school coach and worked with some all-star teams. One of those teams featured a familiar name: Zach Parise.

“The first thing I remember is just how competitive he was,” Forte said. “Man, I thought I was competitive … he didn’t want to lose ping pong, whatever it was.”

He was where he wanted to be, until one day in 2006, when the doctor gave him some incredibly bad news.

“I had a rare cancer called a thymic carcinoid, and it was in my chest,” Forte said. “The doctor came in and just said it was Stage 4 and ‘get your stuff in order because you got about six months to live.’ ”

They found ways to shrink the tumor and beat the odds. It was done with the help of the hockey community and the people he served. He has learned much.

“I don’t think you can put it into words,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s unbelievable. Unbelievable, that’s all I can say.”

And that hockey community paid tribute to him last year, when the Hockey Hall of Fame honored him with the Spirit of Life Award.

“Getting the award, especially from the hall of fame where I grew up in the shadows of it. And like I tell my friend, ‘I’d like to be in it, but it was for goals and assists, not for, you know, fighting cancer and still giving back to the game,’ ” Forte said. “It was still pretty special.”

He does not know what the future holds. He travels to Mayo Clinic once a month for immunotherapy. But he knows what he has learned, through cancer, about hockey, and about life.

“I told my sister last night on the phone, I said, ‘You know, I want this immunotherapy to work and everything, but if I die, I just feel so blessed,’ ” he said.

Forte will be at the Minnesota Wild game Saturday night to perform “Let’s Play Hockey.”

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1/23/2017 Update

Let’s Play Hockey — Pat Forte (Jan. 21, 2017)


Starting the night off with the “Let’s Play Hockey” call is hockey coach Pat Forte who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. (Duration: 01:31)

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5/11/2017 Update

‘No Excuses. None’

Forte exhibits his strong will at Mesabi college

‘NO EXCUSES. NONE’
Former Eveleth resident and longtime hockey coach Pat Forte talks about the lessons he’s learned growing up playing hockey and after battling a series of serious illnesses to Mesabi Range College athletes March 22, 2017 in Virginia. (Photo: Mark Sauer / Mesabi Daily News)

By Joseph Labernik


April 1, 2017

VIRGINIA — The struggles, the successes, the grit of the Iron Range pumps — sometimes weakly, sometimes strongly — through Eveleth native Pat Forte.

On March 22, in a small auditorium on the Mesabi Range College campus, in front of a gathering of athletes and coaches, Forte was gaunt, gray and clearly tired. He took the steps down to the lectern with a cane, one by one, before he sat down and spoke into a microphone.

“I am not a great speaker,” he told them, “but I think my story is worth telling.”

Forte is a man who, over the years, has had many reasons to give up. He’s gone through tribulations you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. A crippling knee condition that derailed a potential NHL career, cancer that was supposed to kill him years ago, surgeries, doctors, failures. But when he spoke into the microphone at Mesabi Range College he spoke clearly, confidently through the shallow breath of one lung.

He began his story in the car, on the way home with his father after a 7-4 win in youth hockey. Forte, a defenseman, had finally hit the ice for the first time in the game with 11 seconds left … in the third period, and as a forward.

On that ride, Forte complained to his dad about the ice time he was getting.

“Son, I’m only going to have this conversation with you once,” he said, “but how much time did you spend on your game?”

Not much, unfortunately. And because of it, Forte’s dad wasn’t letting him off easy, especially if he expected playing time.

“If your friends are shooting 20 pucks, you should be shooting 50,” his dad told him.

Forte’s dad was a stern but grounded parent when he offered advice. He told Forte’s sister something similar when, during her senior year of basketball, a freshman stole playing time from her. She asked that their dad call the coach to get her playing time back.

He said he’d call.

“I’m going to tell him I support his decision entirely,” Forte’s dad said.

It was moments like that which built two ways of thinking in Forte:

• Whatever your task, the outcome is largely a result of your own actions.

• You have full responsibility for said actions/results.

From that young age Forte began to understand, and culminate, a sense of precocious volition and realistic cause and effect. It was a thought process that would shape a whole lifetime of grit and determination, though he didn’t know that as he began shooting pucks in the basement and conditioning his body twice as much as his friends were in the off-season.

By his junior year of high school hockey Forte led the IRC in scoring for Eveleth. He had dinners with a few different NHL teams, part of a heavy recruiting campaign that led him into his senior year. It was clear he was destined for greatness.

But the unexpected assailed him. After one particular game he complained that his knee was sore; the pain kept getting worse and worse. It never got better. A doctor diagnosed him with a rare condition, Osteochondritis dissecans, which causes the cartilage in the knee to whither away. He had surgery, and was told he’d never play hockey again.

NHL teams lost interest in him, along with many others in hockey, except for a Division III school in Massachusetts, American International College.

Despite the problems in his knee he persisted, and played a year with the Yellow Jackets. At some point during that season, however, his other knee began acting up. Osteochondritis dissecans had struck again, which meant more surgeries and more dissapointments. His career on the ice was officially over.

His love for the game hadn’t gone away, however, and Forte came back to Bemidji to finish his education. On graduating he got a job as a high school coach at Bemidji; at the time, he was the youngest head high school coach in the state. After all, those hockey smarts he learned from all that conditioning hadn’t all gone away; they improved the more he coached.

He moved to better things — to St. Cloud, where he coached the Minnesota Select 17s for a few years and helped some of the best players in the NHL develop their game — players like Matt Niskanen and Zach Parise.

He even coached St. Cloud Apollo to a conference title in 2000.

The next setback hit him there. One day he was simply playing recreational dodgeball when he couldn’t catch his breath. A coworker told him he needed to go to the doctor — he looked gray and sickly.

He was diagnosed with thymic carcinoid cancer, and was told he had six months to live.

There were moments in front of the auditorium when his voice shed any sort of weakness of breath or wavering pitch. They were moments when his Iron Range accent flourished, hardened into the same voice you’ve heard from the best coaches on the best teams, the toughest players to skate the Iron Range ice.

“Adversity is a means of life,” he told the crowd. “It’s going to either break you or polish you.”

Forte’s adversity gutted him before it polished him. The cancer took a lung and his adrenal glands. He had to learn to walk again after all the procedures, after the cocktails of drugs, after tumors appeared all over his body.

That was over 11 years ago. Now, he’s just happy telling his story to people, with the opportunity to talk to athletes in the area especially important to him.

“That’s why I wanted to make this so bad,” Forte said in an interview after he was done addressing the public, “just because it’s been such a long, tough struggle. But I wanted to get back to speak with these people.”

He told them, after his story, that the behaviors he learned in sports were the ones that polished him.

“All these little battles along the way in sports, it’s leading you up to a bigger thing,” he added.

His bigger thing — for him, cancer — has not come lightly. The hurdles have forced him to adapt, shaped him into a rounded person, wise even beyond his 50 years. He’s got strong faith, and a toolbox of saying and aphorisms that have helped him stay strong.

“Just remember, WIN,” he said, “which stands for what’s important now. And another thing: whether in life or in sports, you need to work on the weakest part of your game.”

Some days are harder than others for him. At one point in the talk he mentioned that the week hadn’t been a good one for him; only a few days prior he couldn’t walk at all. He hasn’t been able to get through all this adversity by himself — the one thing he stressed most was his support system, which has never failed him, filled with numerous people willing to help him — bringing him to doctor’s appointments, for example.

“Learn how to be a team player,” he said, “and do what’s right.”

That’s why Forte is all but willing to answer the “two to five (people) a week” asking him for advice. They are old players, old friends; and like Forte’s father did in his own way, Forte gives out his advice, and gladly.

His sayings, ones like “Don’t compare yourself to others,” or “Starting now we have 100 percent of our lives left” are powerful and important on their own. But they’re not made convincing on their own. This is where a sort of gravity about Forte is lost when you’re not in front of him — it was clear, on the Mesabi campus, that the only thing that kept his frail body from collapsing or at least shutting partially down was a part of the same thing that made his one-lunged voice boom through the poor acoustics of the room.

But for most of us, the same stubborness and determination that Forte shows seems out of reach. At least, it isn’t learned overnight. So when he asked everyone how they prepare for adversity, it was easy to feel less equipped as the man in front of the room, snow-stubbled and gray but fierce with his words.

Then again, maybe it’s more simple than that. Maybe determination and grit is simply which direction the pointed finger is aimed.

“No excuses,” he told them. “None.”

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6/10/2017 Update

Well done, my good and faithful servant …

Minnesota Wild ?Let?s Play Hockey? call by Pat and Nico Forte, Jan. 27, 2017.

CaringBridge journal entry — June 10, 2017 at 4:27 p.m. CT

It is with a heavy heart I share that Pat passed away this afternoon at 1:14 (13:14 military time!). Words can not express the gratitude we feel knowing he went quickly and peacefully. He is at rest.

More information to follow regarding funeral arrangements.

Thank you all for your role in this incredible man’s life.

With love,

Pat’s family

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6/12/2017 Update

Obituary and funeral arrangements

Forte_Patrick_Obituary


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 27, 2008

Forte_Pat-Nico_2008
Pat Forte with his son Nico
(Photo:
University of Minnesota Foundation)

Pat Forte’s CaringBridge site

A Christmas Story

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I highlighted Pat Forte’s achievements as Sartell hockey coach while battling life-threatening thymic carcinoid.

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3 Responses to “Pat Forte Update”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » A Christmas Story Says:

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  3. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Pat Forte Obituary Says:

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