First off, I just want to thank all of the people who graciously donated their time and money to our “Hockey Cares!” fundraiser event last Saturday night at Mother Teresa Regional School. In just four hours, we managed to raise nearly $1000 for the American Red Cross and local hurricane relief for our area of New Jersey. With a few more of the in-school associations expecting to donate, we will eclipse that mark, and Jersey Natural Gas has said they will match our final dollar amount. This event, which started out when I made the minor suggestion of actually charging admission for our hockey games, a mere dollar or two, ballooned into a massive evening of festivities, including a visit from the New Jersey Devils’ (I put aside my Rangers colors that night) former player Jim Dowd and their mascot. We had more than ten local businesses donate gift cards and items for a tricky-tray raffle, and the Devils themselves game us an autographed Martin Brodeur stick and Zach Parise puck. But aside from all of that was s0mething much more important—the good time we had!
The afternoon started off with a visit from a reporter from the Monitor, the newspaper for the diocese the school belongs to. There, she interviewed myself and Vinny and Ann-Margret Duminski, the couple that runs our league, and who took my initial idea and transformed it into what would eventually unfold. Of course, out of the ten minute interview, they managed to only use one single sentence, but our picture did get in there, and more importantly, the message of what we were trying to accomplish. You can click here to read the article. I guess you can say that is our 15 seconds of fame, eh?
Naturally, seeing people coming into our building and making donations was cause for a smile, but what really got to me was the fun that everyone had. Just scanning the audience saw people laughing, talking it up with others, and enjoying the atmosphere of the family event. We had a small game for the kids in preschool and kindergarten (planning for the future), where they used Nerf sticks and foam balls. After that, Jim Dowd and the mascot made their way in, and after the kids shot around with him for a while, taking shots on “NJ” as he is called, he made a short speech and then signed autographs. Not allowing myself to hang anything in my room with a Devils’ logo on it, I asked if he would sign my Minnesota Wild jersey instead, and he could not believe that I actually had one, and of course signed it. I had the same reaction from Grant Marshall last season, when he visited, and I presented him with a Blue Jackets jersey. When the mascot was walking near me, the kids came around us and told him that I am a Rangers fan. I jokingly said, “Can I punch you since you’re wearing that mask?” and he pointed to his chin. I reared back and gave him a shot to the jaw. Then he grabbed me and we wrestled a bit, before giving me an elbow to the head that was a little more than a love tap.
After that, we commenced with skills competitions for our junior and senior divisions, before moving on to the most highly anticipated events of the evening: the parent/faculty vs the students game. We broke it down into age level, and had so many parents that wanted to
beat play against their children, that we actually had line combinations and defensive pairings. George and Scott could not help but intensify the moment, by acting like NHL coaches, yelling and screaming at parents who had never held a hockey stick before. The principal’s message to us before the game was as follows: “We are here to win.” And win we did.
While the main idea was to have fun, we were not allowed to take it easy on them, and easily took care of the juniors. For the senior game, I was paired with the principal, Mrs. Wisk, and a teacher who has been sitting in on my Civil War classes there, Mr. McGoldrick. We made a pretty formidable line, as less than a minute in, the principal set me up for a tap-in goal, with a cross rink pass that landed right on my tape. About a minute after that, I scored a second goal, after some hard work from McGoldrick pried the puck loose. Coach Brian, who was playing goalie, was outstanding, making several key saves, even after being barreled over by the principal’s son Patrick. We went on to win the game 2-0, as the score soon became irrelevant. On no less than three occasions did a parent knock their child to the ground (I guess we ignored the no checking rule here) and the place was erupting with laughter as Coach George came in on a breakaway and missed the net. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun at a school event, and apparently, many others felt the same, and even asked if we could do a Family Hockey Night there in the coming weeks. The quote of the game, however, comes from a mother, who upon returning to the bench after a shift, threw her stick down and exclaimed, “I’m gonna need to take an Ibuprofen after this one!”
Anyway, we accomplished what we set out to do on September 24th. We raised some money, and raised the spirits of some families who were hit hard in the Atlantic Highlands area by Hurricane Irene last month. Nothing ever usually goes as planned, and that is true here as well—we never could have imagined such a turnout for an event that we had only two weeks to plan. As I told the reporter from the Monitor, “We did two months worth of work in two weeks.” It was hectic, yes, but well worth it in the end.