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Two-sport Giant Charlie Cohen Follows Family Legacy of Hockey Referees

By Ross Forman, 11/20/23, 8:00AM CST


HP Defenseman Leads Team Into Rivalry Game November 22 Against Deerfield

Highland Park had a one-goal lead with about 3:00 remaining to play in the annual 2022 Rivalry Series game against Deerfield, played the day before Thanksgiving in Vernon Hills. The Giants were whistled for some penalties, including a 5-minute major, thus were skating in a 5-on-3 disadvantage against the Warriors, with a raucous, standing-room-only crowd cheering every heart-pounding play.

Defenseman Charlie Cohen was on the ice for the final minutes, except about 20 seconds, helping the Giants prevail.

It was a career highlight for Cohen, as the Giants won 5-3.

Revenge is running through the Deerfield locker room this season, yet the Giants are ready for the Wednesday, November 22 game against their arch-rival Warriors.

“My favorite moment (of my career) was scoring last season against Deerfield in the (pre-)Thanksgiving game,” said Cohen, 16, a junior who shoots left-handed. “The annual rivalry game (between Highland Park and Deerfield) has so much on the line. Scoring in that crazy game in front of so many people was, by far, my favorite moment of all time on the ice.”

The puck drops November 22 at 7:40 p.m. at the Glacier Ice Arena in the annual Quest For The District 113 Cup.

The Giants are 9-4 in the Varsity Champions League of the IHSHL North-Central Division after a 5-0 home win over the D211 Chiefs on Sunday, Nov. 12.

The Warriors are 7-3-1.

“They wrote us off (this season) … we didn’t write back,” Cohen said. “We have a group that works incredibly hard and has played together for years. I love the energy that we bring and every guy in our locker room loves to compete and, more importantly, loves to win.”

That’s why the team goal is simple this season: Win the North-Central Championship and go as deep as HP has ever gone in the state tournament.

“My main goal is to win every game I play and contribute as much on the defensive end as I can,” said Cohen, who played his youth hockey for the Falcons and is now in his third varsity season.

His first-ever game, for the Falcons, included his dad (Eran) on the bench coaching his son.

Eran has, for years, been a local on-ice official. Same for Charlie’s uncles, Steve and Jonathan. Steve is one of the longest-tenured officials in Illinois and Jonathan’s son, Dylan, a senior at Deerfield High School, also has officiated, including past games with Charlie.

“Coming from a family of officials has taught me a level of respect as well as passion for the game,” Charlie said. “Not only did they influence me to become an official myself, but they are the ones who motivated me to become a hockey player from such a young age. My dad has put a rink in the backyard every year since I was 3 and still does it to this day.”

Charlie is now in his third year as an on-ice official, with no plans to stop or suspend his life in black and white stripes. “Officiating is not only a way to give back to the game, but also provides countless lessons on interacting with people and managing yourself in a high-pressure situation,” he said.

Cohen brings reliable puck-movement to the Giants and is solid on the team’s penalty-kill.

“My biggest influences have been my coaches and my dad, first and foremost,” Cohen said. “Getting the opportunity to play for coach Bob Melton, with all his success (at New Trier Green), has drastically helped my game as well as my team’s success. Second, the seniors who I got to play with my freshman year taught me what it means to be a team and gave me memories I will never forget.”

Cohen, who is undecided on his college plans, also is a varsity baseball player for the Giants, splitting time between second base and one of the corner outfield positions.

“Going to Cooperstown, N.Y., as a 13-year-old was the most fun I have ever had at a baseball tournament,” Cohen said. “My team made a run to the sweet 16, beating Hawaii along the way, and eventually got knocked out by the ultimate champion.

“I play a total of 120 games throughout the year in baseball and hockey combined. When I get time off, I love spending time with my friends and family, and watching whatever sport is on TV.

“Baseball and hockey are so different, which is part of the reason I love playing both. By the end of one season, I am always ready for the other. Baseball makes hockey feel a lot easier, but both require a high level of thinking and knowing what you’re going to do either if the ball or the puck comes your way, which has greatly benefited my vision and instincts.”

Slapshots With … Highland Park Defenseman Charlie Cohen

Off-Ice: “Hanging out with my teammates and creating memories helps our team chemistry. You can always see the difference in a team that sees one another as a family. Winning always starts with team chemistry.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Connor Bedard
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Moneyball
Favorite TV Show: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Fruit
Favorite app: ESPN Fantasy Football
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Tom Brady
Best Hockey Tip: “After playing for him at a young age, as well as watching him previously coach Highland Park, Sean Freeman taught me to always play the body and have a celebration ready at all times.”
Hardest Slapshot on Highland Park: Evan Paget
Most Accurate Shot on HP: Eli Meek
HP Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Jake Perlen
Best High School Uniform (other than HP): York