Rosemount hockey coach gets proper sendoff ahead of National Guard deployment
It was far from an Irish goodbye for a Rosemount Irish hockey coach as he prepares to deploy overseas with the Minnesota National Guard.
Between the two girls’ hockey games at the Rosemount arena Wednesday night, the head coach for the junior varsity team, Rik Chittajallu — who players call “Coach Rik” — was given a proper sendoff.
It included a red carpet rolled out on the ice, a large bouquet of yellow flowers matching the school colors, and kind words shared by team captains.
“They did a great job with the sendoff,” Chittajallu told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Chittajallu — a specialist and paralegal within the National Guard and part of the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division — is one of more than 550 Minnesota National Guard soldiers set for a nearly year-long deployment in early February. They’re heading to the Middle East to provide support for partner nations and increase security.
Chittajallu says it’s his first deployment.
“There’s always the possibility, but you never know for sure,” he said about getting deployed. “[It took me] a little bit by surprise, but you know what you signed up for.”
As for his players, they have a life-size cardboard cutout of Coach Rik they say will be on the bench for the last few games.
“We have always been very proud of him,” said Alana Elsen, a senior for Irish hockey.
“When we heard he was getting deployed, we were obviously all very devastated. But, we were even more proud to know that he was going out there and he was helping protect and serve for our country,” Elsen added.
The Red Bulls plan to return home from their deployment in December.