Former hockey players from West Hartford’s Conard High School continue their tradition of getting together the Saturday after Thanksgiving – and engaging in the activity that bonds them together.
By Ryan Keating
As we enter and embrace the holiday season, I am forever fortunate to reflect and remember the hard work, preparation, dedication, and commitment, made by the parents and teammates I was fortunate to share the ice and memories with while growing up.
As witnessed on Saturday, Nov. 25, more than 40 former players, spanning four different decades (1988-2017) of suited up for the third annual Alumni Game. Teams were split into “old” vs. “young.” As those from the 1980-2000 (white) gathered together in the “new” locker room that was built for the younger generations of 2001-2017 (red), they shared memories only a locker room will hold truth to.
Over the last three years this newfound tradition has ignited a spark within the Conard Hockey community. The Friends of Conard Hockey (FOCH) organization founded the Conard Hockey Alumni Game and Fundraiser to reunite alumni players and their families and rekindle some fond memories of the hockey lifestyle.
Although some former players are still involved in hockey leagues, it’s not the same as high school where you share the same fortunes, sorrow, and growth, with the same group of guys as a daily activity and training takes place all year long.
“Just in terms of the event itself and what it means to the players, high school hockey was such a big part of a lot of our lives for four years,” said Quinn Lacroix, a 2014 Conard graduate. “For many of us, our core personalities and individual growth occurred in that four-year period. And with that, a lot of our best friendships were made.”
This game proved nothing was to be left on the ice as – skating and scoring skills still sharp – the white “old” team won 5-4 in a close back-and-forth game. As the fifth goal was scored red team had been told that a fourth period was to be played, to which one of the seasoned alumni stated, “When in hockey has ever there been a fourth period?”
As always true to hockey traditions, both teams met at center ice to shake hands and celebrate a hard fought battle before heading to the Tavern to exchange fellowship and camaraderie with families and friends of old and new.
FOCH is made of Conard hockey families that support and value the Chieftain’s boys hockey program. The group is led by a board of eight parents: Michelle Tremblay Lacroix (President), Taylor Henderson, Julie Evans Starr, Bill Wilson, Chuck Bruttomesso, Karen Wizevich, Kristen Johnson, Rob Johnson (Alumni Game Chair), and new head coach Chris Torna. FOCH organizes fundraising events, team community service endeavors, and works to establish team and leadership building opportunities for the players.
“Coming back as the head coach as a former captain and former assistant coach has been absolutely tremendous,” said Torna, a 1999 Conard graduate. “The energy and commitment from all involved in the Conard hockey program has been overwhelming. I hope as coach to re-energize a program based around accountability, self-discipline, and execution. This year’s team promises to compete in a very challenging schedule. You can expect a fast, hardworking, gritty, well balanced team. If we harness all our energy and execute the way we should, our ability to compete will be very effective,” said Torna.
Lacroix said that hockey was about more than the games and early morning practices. “You really went through the first big parts of your adolescent life with those guys and had some of your best memories with them. And the sad reality is that as life goes on after high school, whether you like it or not, people tend to have their own path.”
Staying in touch with former teammates isn’t always easy, but Conard hockey alums know that they always have the alumni game to look forward to. “It’s one day of the year that old friends can get together, young and old, and play the game they love at a fun and competitive level, while supporting the current team and players. Then after the game, everyone gets to head over to the tavern to enjoy some good food and ‘adult beverages,’ said Lacroix.
“Old teammates can sit down and reminisce about the good times, as well as catch up on what’s new. Overall, it’s just a really great and fun event to bring the big Conard hockey family back together,” Lacroix said.
Players this year included:
Rob Johnson, Frank Abbatemarco, Peter Murphy, Brian Linda, Ricky Wilson, Lewis Tamaccio, Jay Curley, Matthew Janis, Kevin Marratto, Eliott Valdez, Brian Boland, Tom Lynch, Chris Torna, Chris Rice, Ryan Tacy, Kevin Molylenaux, Mike Curley, Blake Riley, Kyle Tacy, Ryan Keating, Tyler Connal, Thomas Miceli, Sam Holl, Aaron Merenda, Brady Collins, Kyle Kruger, Jake Jednorowicz, Mike Schaffman, Trevor Connal, Danny Kycia, Ryan Glover, Luke Haggerty, Quinn Lacroix, Eric Krueger, Jack Alissi, Patrick Corcoran, Zach Hoffman, Grayson Lacroix, Matthew McCormick, Brooks Clement, Aidan Costello, and Dylan Turner.
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