"He was genuinely one of the funniest people I have ever met ... whether he was trying to be or not," A.J. Frey said of his former teammate and friend, who passed away this weekend at the age of 28.
Frey played alongside Pollio, a graduate, on Hofstra University's club roller hockey team for three seasons, from 2002 to 2004.
During that time, the Pride beat some of the best teams in the country to earn its first invitation to the 2005 Division II College Roller Hockey National Tournament in Fort Collins, Colorado and "sent rumblings through hockey locker rooms from Bangor down to Miami and across to Reno" when they made it to the Elite Eight, according to an article penned by Pollio's father, Ralph, at the time. In it, he wrote, "Everybody was talking about the unlikely Regional Champs -- the little-known team with the big heart and the swift skates."
"Chris was a major part of that team," said Frey, then the Pride's captain."While it wasn't his best season, there's no way we would have gone as far as we had without him."
"[He] was a selfless teammate on skates," Linda Knox, a Smithtown native and 2006 Hofstra graduate recalled of Pollio's playing style.
Off the rink, she says, he was "a true friend since the day I met him ... a gentle soul with a million dollar smile who you could always count on for a laugh or one more dance on a Saturday night."
It's that smile and Pollio's sense of humor that his friends remember most now in the wake of his sudden death just weeks shy of his 29th birthday. (The exact cause is not known, but friends said he had been battling some serious personal issues for years.)
"His infectious smile and bubbly personality could light up a room," said Paul Yip, a close friend of Pollio who remembers when he was voted "funniest" in his
eighth grade class.
"He was always a funny kid. We always had a lot of fun," said Lakeview resident Freddy Senti, who hung out with Pollio in high school and played hockey with him growing up. "We had lost touch a little but were still friends. It's a shame what happened cause everyone thought he was on the road to recovery."
"He had a certain way about him, not being able to take some of the most serious situations seriously, and would come out with a one-liner that would just crack the mood and make everyone smile," Frey recalled.
But he was more than just a jock and a jokester, Yip said of his friend, explaining that he was also very smart, having earned a four-year academic scholarship to Hofstra, sensitive and kind.
"Always attuned to the moods of others, and capable of cheering people up," Yip said Pollio would often show up unannounced to cook breakfast, "even when his own mood wasn’t the greatest."
"What I also know is how much I’m going to miss him," Yip added. "His death at the age of 28 is tragic for me and for all his friends – and for those
who’ll never have the chance to know him as we did."
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