Just as he started talking about Clint Reif, Wolves equipment manager Craig Kogut warned he was going to break down. His eyes were red and clearly moist just thinking about Reif, who was found unresponsive Sunday morning at his Lombard home and later pronounced dead.
Kogut called hiring Reif to be his assistant the “best thing I could have done” and gave him the go-ahead to talk to the Hawks after spending one season working under him. And the thought of him being gone clearly stung Kogut, whose relationship with Reif went beyond the professional realm.
“Nobody disliked him. Nobody. If he was mad he didn’t show it. You look at Facebook, you look at Twitter, you look at the text messages I got in the last 24 hours – hundreds of them. He was just loved by every person out there,” Kogut said. “And he worked his (butt) off.”
Kogut and the Wolves paid tribute to Reif in various ways Monday. Prior to their game with the Grand Rapids Griffins, a moment of silence was observed. And on Instagram, Kogut, assistant equipment manager D.J. Kogut and former Hawks Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Colin Fraser posed for a photo with Reif’s CR initials superimposed at the front of the picture.
Eager, who spent parts of three seasons with the Hawks, called Reif “one of the best (equipment managers) out there and one of the best people.”
“He’s done so much for so many people during their careers,” Eager said. “He would do everything for them. He put other people ahead of himself, always had a positive attitude and a pleasure to be around.”
As Eager alluded to, the job of equipment manager is one that means long hours and tough work. But Kogut and Eager saw Reif as someone who loved his job and took pride in what he did.
“He didn’t play the game but I think you could look back and a lot of wins were due to the work him and (Hawks equipment manager Troy Parchman) put in, whether it’s working late on someone’s sticks or skates,” Eager said. “Just making guys feel comfortable and ready to go.”
Because of that, Reif won’t be forgotten.
“I won’t forget him. My family was close to their family. We did barbecues together. We always talked,” Kogut said. “I’ll never forget the kid. Never. We’re going to remain close to his family, especially now.”