BLAINE -- There are few situations that call for a memorial service to be described as "fun."
But when asked about the ceremony honoring his deceased father, Larry Hendrickson, that took place Thursday, that's the first word out of Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson's mouth. That's how family, friends and the Minnesota hockey community say it should've been. That's how Larry would've wanted it.
And while the man associated primarily with hilarity, inclusivity and playing and coaching and promoting hockey will continue to be celebrated, this still hurts. The pain isn't a sole focus. But it's there. It's there for Darby, it's there for his brother Danny, their mother Jane Hendrickson, their sisters Christine Krsnik and Julie Oss, and Larry's 12 grandchildren.
"There's a lot of emotions," Darby said Saturday at the State of Hockey Sauce Toss Tournament at the National Sports Center, the proceeds of which will benefit the Hendrickson Foundation founded by Larry. "We had a wonderful dad who touched the lives of many, including our family, and it's hard to lose anybody, especially when your dad was that strong of a person in your life. It's still a process of grief, but there's also great joy in what he did and what he taught us.
"What an unbelievable person he was."
In his 75 years, Larry Hendrickson:
- Played for Minneapolis Washburn High School in the boys high school state hockey tournament twice and lettered on a Millers football team that won 23 straight games. Nine years ago, he was inducted into the school's hall of fame.
- Coached the St. Paul Vulcans to a Junior-A national championship in 1968.
- Conducted countless USA and Minnesota Hockey clinics and camps for players and coaches.
- Coached the Richfield High School boys hockey team from 1973-80, including a state championship game appearance in 1976.
- As a close friend of coach Herb Brooks, served as strength and conditioning coach for the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team.
- Coached the Apple Valley boys high school team from 1980-1997 and co-led it to the 1996 state title.
- Also served as a coach at Shattuck-St. Mary's, Buffalo High School and Benilde St. Margaret's High School.
- Earned 2010 induction into the Minnesota High School Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame.
- Founded the Hendrickson Foundation in 2011 after being exposed to sled hockey. What started as a way to make the sport accessible to disabled children has grown into a behemoth that supports Minnesota Special Hockey, the Minnesota Wild sled hockey teams and the Minnesota Warriors military veterans team.
- Raised a pair of University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men's players, the older of whom went on to play 10 NHL seasons, becoming an original member of the Wild and later an assistant coach.
"What I've been impressed with is the people he surrounded himself with that have really taken it to another level," Darby said. "I think he is proud to see a lot of people benefit from the [foundation]. He also, I think, was wise enough to really surround himself with really good people to help make it grow."
So the brothers will do their best to expand Larry's legacy. Darby continues to play an integral role directing forwards on coach Bruce Boudreau's staff and supporting his family's philanthropic efforts. Danny, his younger brother by two years, will take over the foundation, keep hash-tagging #hockeychangeslives and doing "everything we can to help people in hockey with disabilities. I know I can't do it alone, but he left an amazing team of people around me and the foundation, and I know that we will succeed and we will change lives."
In the meantime, they'll mourn. But they'll also keep celebrating. Like when the entire family got together for a pool party on Father's Day -- two days after Larry's long battle with heart complications came to a close. And Thursday's memorial service, which saw an estimated 900 people flock to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, then migrate to the American Legion next to Richfield Ice Arena to share stories long into the night.
"It was fun, it was great," Darby said. "He would be incredibly touched by the amount of people that came out, and I know he's looking from above. I think he's in a better place than he was with his health at the end. I just know how proud he'd be of all the good things that have happened to his vision.
Said Danny: "It's been a crazy month, but he's smiling in heaven and we're smiling on this earth."