After all his years in the game, shuttling back and forth to arenas, running to catch one of his kids' games and then to another as a ref, the former college goalie has grown accustomed to the grind of a hockey season, and everything that comes with it as both coach and parent.
"That's just hockey," Usseglio said Tuesday at Champions Skating Center.
Nearly a year after receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Usseglio says he is healthy, coaching one of the best high school girls hockey teams in the state and watching his son lead East Catholic High to the top of the Division II standings.That controlled chaos — the odd hours at the rink, the travel to his son's games and his own games as coach — is what he needs and puts him where he wants to be.
Usseglio, 52, has the East Catholic, Glastonbury and South Windsor girls co-op team at 7-0, and his son Tommy is a major part of East Catholic's 7-1 start as the team's starting goalie. Halle Usseglio, Frank's daughter, is also on the girls team as a freshman goalie. His older daughter, Shannon, played on the co-op two years ago. Girls hockey became a varsity sport in 2012-13.
"Obviously, you get a different perspective on life when stuff happens to you, so I'm just grateful for everything," Frank Usseglio said.
Last season, Usseglio continued to coach as he underwent chemotherapy. He lost his hair and had some tough days. But he kept going, coaching the team he helped get started. Then in the middle of winter, about seven months after he was diagnosed, his doctors told him he was where he needed to be with treatment, and healthy. He said he is clean and doing fine health-wise. He is not suffering from aftereffects, but needs periodic checkups.
"I had a lot of support from home and family, but hockey was a big part of it, too," Usseglio said. "I got to continue to coach, which was a nice thing to do because I had to give up a lot of stuff. It was nice to have some normalcy, and hockey was normalcy."
Usseglio said he refused to let news of the disease make him become sentimental.
"I just wanted to get started with the treatments and get it going," Usseglio said. "It was just about getting through that chemo."
For his family, it was tough. Tommy Usseglio said Tuesday that it was sometimes hard to be happy last winter. But he had to be there for his sisters and younger brother, Cole. With confidence and poise, Tommy Usseglio led East Catholic to its first state Division II final in a decade.
"He is just a tremendous kid to begin with," East Catholic coach Drew Clarkin said. "He never stops working. He has a work ethic that is unmatched, and has a tremendous amount of respect from the guys around him."
The Eagles lost the final on a penalty shot in overtime, but the season and the ending has motivated Usseglio, who made a poke check on the play but failed to stop the winning goal after a deke to his side.
"It was hard, but after I accepted that there was nothing I could do now and that it was over, I focused on what I can do to improve myself this year and what I can do better that I didn't last year," Tommy Usseglio said. "I wanted to be a team leader."
His sister's team also was motivated this season.
"I think the trust we have in our teammates has helped," senior winger Taylor Hallisey said. "We have a solid group of girls that work well together."
The teams also share a special family dynamic: along with the Usseglios, there are several brother-sister connections. They attend each other's games and share friendships. It helps attract alumni to the benches. Former players Chris Gentile and Joey Trenholm serve as assistants for the boys team.
"We're all one team, we're a huge group," Tommy Usseglio said. "It is not two separate teams with two separate goals. ... It is a family. We're always there supporting each other."