Updated at 12:00 p.m. on June 27.
Rich Trefz taught his son, Ryan Trefz, to ice skate at four years old. As he got older, he became an especially skilled hockey player, Rich Trefz said.
Ryan Trefz knew he was good at the game but never let it go to his head.
He died Saturday morning at 21 years old. He was a junior risk management and insurance major. His family and friends describe him as kind, funny, passionate about hockey, and a great friend.
He brought that passion for the sport with him to Temple, along with his humble and caring personality. Ryan Trefz’s teammates at Temple recalled the times he dedicated his free time to helping them become better players and people.
“The freshmen and sophomores on the team, he always made sure they knew they were welcome,” Rich Trefz said. “The mentoring he received as a freshman, he passed on to others.”
John Callahan, a senior accounting major, asked Ryan Trefz, a co-captain and vice president of the ice hockey club, to help him practice on the ice during winter break last year.
He was surprised when Ryan Trefz came out and helped him, Callahan said.
“If you gave your heart and soul, you were just as important to him as the star player who scored every goal,” Callahan added.
A GoFundMe created to offset funeral costs for the family has raised more than $28,000 as of Thursday.
Ron Anderson, dean of the Fox School of Business, announced Trefz’s death in an email to students in the business school on Saturday.
On the ice, Ryan Trefz played as a defenseman and helped Temple’s team contend for the playoffs last season, The Temple News reported in February.
He always looked out for others: if a friend or teammate needed anything, the answer was always “yes,” Francie Trefz, his mother, said.
“Family and teammates were everything to Ryan,” she said. “He put them before himself 100 percent.”
Francie Trefz admired how her son successfully balanced everything in his life. He was able to make time for friends and family while focusing on his courses and hockey, she said.
“He had an inner strength and a focus,” she said.
Ryan Trefz made an effort to make everyone around him feel comfortable and wanted, Rich Trefz said.
“I think you learn from him because he didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” he added. “Life throws you a lot of curves, and he taught me to be as nice as a person as I could all the time.”
Ryan Trefz was also an active member of the Gamma Iota Sigma fraternity.
“We are deeply saddened by Ryan’s passing, and his family and friends remain in our thoughts and prayers,” wrote Varun Sivakumar, Temple’s chapter president, in a statement to The Temple News.
He was equally passionate about his friends as he was about hockey, said Charles Ghiazza, one of his closest friends and a co-captain of the ice hockey team.
“He was the kind of guy that would take any situation and try and find a joke,” Ghiazza, a 21-year-old junior risk management major, said. “He would just try and lift people up.”
Trefz and Ghiazza spent the past summers renovating the locker room at the team’s current home at the Rink on Old York Road in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. The two helped transport the team’s equipment during the process.
Though he only knew Trefz for a few months, Pat Carroll, the coach of Temple’s ice hockey team, was excited to work with him in the upcoming season, he wrote in an email to The Temple News.
“We had talked many times and to hear the excitement in his voice over the things we were planning and doing was making it very hard to wait for the first on-ice session and for the season to start,” Carroll wrote.
The Doylestown native played for Central Bucks West High School’s ice hockey team before coming to Temple and “was a star player who never acted like a star,” wrote Dave Baun, the coach of the Central Bucks West ice hockey team, in an email to The Temple News.
“He quietly led by the strength of his character and the example he set,” Baun wrote. “Ryan made everyone else better by how he played, how he handled himself and how he treated others.”
Trefz was skilled. He recorded 22 assists last season, the most of any player on the team, as well as five goals.
Younger players on Temple’s hockey team recount Trefz driving them to practices and away games and frequently inviting them to hang out. He was jokingly referred to as the “dad” of the group, said Andrew Kaeser, a sophomore supply chain management major and teammate.
“When I came to Temple, it was really hard to have a friend group,” Kaeser said. “Just to have that base, it meant the world to me, I know it meant a lot to others as well. Ryan was never shy to invite us out.”
Trefz’s coaches worked him hard, Callahan said, but he seemed to thrive off of the intensity. Callahan respected him as a leader and a person, he said.
Callahan recalled when Trefz comforted him after he learned his uncle passed away and he would need to miss some hockey games, Callahan said.
“He kept saying, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘Is there anything I can do?’ ‘How’s your family?’” Callahan said. “He taught me a lot more about life than he did about hockey.”
Trefz made sacrifices of his own to do what was needed for the team, said Ben Auerbach, a senior kinesiology major, teammate and friend of Trefz’s.
“He was the best of all of us,” Auerbach said. “That’s what makes this the worst. His impact is so profound, even after he’s gone.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Ryan Trefz’s scoring statistics in the 2019-19 season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Varun Sivakumar was a columnist for The Temple News. He played no part in the reporting or editing of this story.