World champions

He’s gone from coach­ing youth hockey in North­east Phil­adelphia to help­ing teams con­quer the world. And through it all, one thing has re­mained the same — his love for the game. 

Burholme res­id­ent Chalie Sgrillo has come a long way since his first coach­ing gig in 1982 at Mc­Veigh Play­ground in Kens­ing­ton. 

Nowadays, he’s mak­ing his­tory. 

While Sgrillo has cer­tainly re­mained loy­al to his roots — he’s a Phil­adelphia fire­fight­er in Kens­ing­ton and con­tin­ues to coach in North­east Phil­adelphia — his cap­ab­il­it­ies have al­lowed him to travel the world. 

The coach­ing guru re­cently re­turned from Roc­cara­so, Italy, where he guided the USA Wo­men’s In­line Hockey team to claim the FIRS World Cham­pi­on­ship.

“It hasn’t com­pletely settled in yet,” said Sgrillo, who guided his USA squad to a 3-2 vic­tory over Canada for the gold. “I’m still en­joy­ing it. I still go to You­Tube and watch the last ten seconds of that game. It was hard to be­lieve, be­cause we were in such a nail-bit­ing game. You think the clock is go­ing to run out and next thing you know, you’re world cham­pi­ons.”

Team USA’s path to the World Cham­pi­on­ship title did not come eas­ily. In fact, it took every second of game ac­tion for the ho­met­own her­oes to claim the crown. 

It was a goal by rook­ie Kay­la De­mint with :01 left on the clock that even­tu­ally sealed their glor­i­ous fate. With 10 seconds left in game ac­tion and the score tied at 2 a piece, de­fense­man Al­lie Era took an open op­por­tun­ity to turn up the speed and fly down the rink and take her best shot. Ca­na­dian goalie Keely Brown made the save, but as the loose puck went be­hind the net, De­mint swooped in, picked it up and wrapped around the op­pos­ite side of the goal for the game-win­ning shot. 

“It’s hard to de­scribe the feel­ing I got scor­ing the win­ning goal in the last second,” re­called De­mint, 21, a graph­ic design stu­dent at Azusa Pa­cific Uni­versity in Cali­for­nia. “All I can re­mem­ber is see­ing the puck go in, the ref point­ing, and then I was ec­stat­ic, jump­ing up and down, and then my team­mates dog-piled on top of me.

“It is an awe­some feel­ing to rep­res­ent your coun­try, and even more to get the op­por­tun­ity to see an­oth­er part of the world while you do it,” she ad­ded. “It was a dream come true.”

The USA’s World Cham­pi­on­ship ride ini­ti­ated with a 3-0 win over Aus­tralia in the first round of the tour­na­ment, which took place in Italy’s Roc­cara­so Sports Plex in Ju­ly. USA soon downed Fin­land, 5-1, fol­lowed by a 5-1 vic­tory over Italy.  

USA lost to Canada, 4-2, in pool play (which helps de­term­ine play­off seed­ing), but quickly re­boun­ded with a 3-2 vic­tory over the Czech Re­pub­lic in the first round of play­offs. USA shut out Spain, 6-0, which earned them a place in the cham­pi­on­ship match-up against Canada.  

“The most chal­len­ging part of the World Cham­pi­on­ships was the qual­ity of the com­pet­i­tion we faced,” said Char­lotte Nich­olson, 24, of New York, who has com­peted for the USA team for sev­en years. “We tied Canada in round robin play and then they beat us in a tie-break­er to de­term­ine seed­ing. They were good com­pet­i­tion, but it was the most re­ward­ing ex­per­i­ence to win in the last second of the fi­nals.”

Team USA’s story­book sea­son ini­ti­ated with open try­outs, which were held in mid-May in Pitt­s­burgh. Ath­letes throughout the coun­try were in­vited to show­case their skills for an op­por­tun­ity to rep­res­ent the United States in the World Cham­pi­on­ships. Over the course of three days, the fi­nal team was chosen by a com­mit­tee of five coaches, in­clud­ing Sgrillo. 

“I liked what we saw at try­outs. I liked what our fi­nal picks were,” said Sgrillo. “I was con­fid­ent that we had a very good chance. Last year was my first ex­per­i­ence be­ing head coach with the wo­men’s team. I knew what we needed to im­prove on. I think we ad­dressed those is­sues suc­cess­fully.

“The girls all play in home cit­ies and teams and areas,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s like try­ing out for U.S. Olympic team. You play where you play, then who­ever shows up and plays the best at the try­outs, makes the team.”

This year’s squad in­cluded play­ers from Cali­for­nia, Ari­zona, Con­necti­c­ut, Col­or­ado, New York, Ore­gon, Geor­gia and Rhode Is­land. And thanks to their head coach —and his son, Chalie Sgrillo Jr., who vo­lun­teered as an as­sist­ant coach — Pennsylvania was also rep­res­en­ted.  

“It cer­tainly gives you a sense of re­spect when you put on that jer­sey in the lock­er room and look around at all the tal­ent and lead­er­ship in the room and real­ize we all come from dif­fer­ent states and back­grounds and we play for our one coun­try,” said for­ward Celeste Loy­atho, 19, of San Juan Cap­istrano, Cal­if. “It is really neat.”

Al­though this was only Sgrillo’s second year as head coach of the USA wo­men’s team — he guided the squad to a bronze medal last year — his coach­ing re­sume spans nearly three dec­ades. 

While grow­ing up in Kens­ing­ton, Sgrillo played roller hockey at Mc­Veigh Play­ground. At the time, Gary Balmer ran the loc­al league, which he op­er­ated since the 1960s. In 1982, Balmer an­nounced his re­tire­ment, and Sgrillo was a per­fect fit for his re­place­ment. 

“I’ve gone from play­ing there to run­ning the league there,” said Sgrillo. “I ran my leagues the same way Gary did. That’s where I got my ex­per­i­ence. Gary taught me everything I know.”

In 1990, Sgrillo and his wife Mar­gie moved to Burholme. He im­me­di­ately ap­proached Cathy Malo­ney-Carchidi, dir­ect­or of Lawn­crest Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, with hopes of start­ing a new in-house hockey league.

“I asked per­mis­sion to take the ten­nis courts and make them in­to hockey rinks. That was the start,” re­called Sgrillo, who headed Lawn­crest’s hockey pro­gram for the next 10 years. “We went from the rec league to the tour­na­ment teams. Play­ers were able to play at the next level.” 

By 2002, the Sgrillo fam­ily moved to Burholme. 

Once again, their tim­ing was per­fect. 

“That’s when Fox Chase was start­ing up a hockey league that runs in the spring and the fall,” said Sgrillo, who vo­lun­teers with Fox Chase and was also hired as the North­east Rac­quet Club’s ath­let­ic dir­ect­or in 2002, where he con­tin­ues to work. “So now in the winter, they can play at the North­east Rac­quet­ball Cen­ter.”

Sgrillo’s smor­gas­bord of ac­com­plish­ments in the loc­al hockey scene con­tin­ues to mul­tiply.

He is an ad­vanced level USA Hockey ac­cred­ited coach, a USA hockey ref­er­ee (level 3) and a USARS/AAU in­line ref­er­ee and coach. 

Over the years, Sgrillo has coached and ref­er­eed more than 2,000 hockey games.

“For me win­ning the gold this year was kind of the coup de grace from where we star­ted,” said Sgrillo. “Gary (Balmer) and Cathy (Malo­ney-Carchidi) — they’re the fun­da­ment­al people be­hind me hav­ing the op­por­tun­ity to coach at the world cham­pi­on­ships.

“It all star­ted with youth hockey in the area,” he ad­ded. “We’ve gone from Lawn­crest to world cham­pi­ons.” ••

Sports ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­

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