Ray Bourque. (Photo: Jon Chase)
A Bruins alumni event has collected a half-million dollars that goes toward maintaining the Jason Ritchie ’05 Memorial Rink.
“Late in the second looking to advance their lead: O’Reilly strips Ritchie of the puck in the neutral zone and completes a cross ice pass to Middleton, who’s forced down along the boards into the corner. Pivoting, he hits a charging Raymond Bourque head on out in front of the crease and the Bruins score!”
The game is 9-8 in the Bruins’ favor, but the year is 2016, not 1983. The setting is about 70 miles northwest of TD Garden, and the ice is peppered with Bruins grey beards out-maneuvering – and sometimes even tripping and hooking – a team of fundraising members of the community, all in good fun.
The Bruins Alumni team is in Winchendon, Mass., for a charity game against the Jason Ritchie All-Star Team, made up of individuals who raised more than $1,000 each for the Jason Ritchie Foundation. In its fifth year, the event has collected a half-million dollars that goes toward maintaining the Jason Ritchie ’05 Memorial Rink at the Winchendon School, and provides financial assistance to a scholarship recipient who plays on the private school’s team.
For Ray Bourque, who joined the prestigious alumni team after he retired in 2001, this is his second year skating against the Foundation. “This is a fun place to come back to,” he said. “Everybody here in this locker room has grown up playing with the Bruins and recognizes and knows that being a part of this alumni team is a big part of what we could do and how we could make a difference, so we take pride in doing this and enjoy it.”
The alumni arrive with their own coaching staff, trainers, referee and color commentator. After on-ice introductions, the puck is dropped and the show is on. Despite their age, these B’s still got it. New England Sports Network’s Andy Brickley skates slowly but surely, bruiser Bruce Shoebottom pinches along the boards and recent retiree Hal Gill dangles for probably the first time ever in his hockey career. Although the Jason Ritchie All-Star Team gets better with every year – this is their fifth time hosting the event – they are no match for these jokester juggernauts.
Bob Cormier, who has been the Director of Hockey Operations for the Bruins Alumni for 24 years, says that the annual event runs like a well-oiled machine. “Fundraisers can sometimes be a little boring,” he said. “You get together, have a bake sale, but how do you beat this? The kids get to see the players, the parents get to see the players they grew up with, the people here raise thousands of dollars to go towards charity and the players get to get out and have some fun and enjoy the locker room camaraderie and get a good sweat on. It’s just a great thing for everybody.”
To make the All-Star Team for the once in a lifetime chance to play against the Bruins, each skater for the Foundation has to raise a minimum of $1,000 dollars for the foundation. Coupled with an online auction, a 50/50 raffle, and an eight-dollar ticket to get in the door to watch the game and get autographs, the event is like no other. “Once we do a game and people kind of see how it runs and how easy it is to be able to raise money for charity this way, it seems to work out great and they bring us back each year,” said Cormier. “It goes to show you that you can really raise money and have fun doing it.”
The Bruins Alumni is perhaps the most engaged out of the 26 NHL teams with alumni branches. The older B’s skate in up to 40 games a season, even taking road trips and playing throughout Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.