The outpouring of support shown by the local hockey community on Sunday, January 19, could be seen for almost a mile on either side of Sandwich Road where traffic began to back up as cars patiently awaited their turn to file into Gallo Ice Arena.
One Knight, One Fight was the reason for the mid-afternoon traffic delay. It is a Sandwich High School boys’ and girls’ hockey player-driven initiative to support a Blue Knights hockey player who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
“I think it was something we needed to do. We all grew up together and to be able to help out one of our own and get the support of this many people is amazing,” Sandwich senior co-captain Nick Eastman said. “The amount of people shows how tight-knit the hockey community really is.”
The girls’ hockey team donated an hour of its ice time, typically reserved for practice, to allow for an open skate with the opportunity to compete in silent auctions and raffles with all the proceeds going toward the family of the boys’ hockey player. However, despite their donation, members of the Sandwich girls’ hockey team were more concerned with the amount of support from neighboring towns and fellow hockey programs.
“Although the girls’ team participated in putting the event together, I think that what really made it such a successful day was the face that the whole hockey community came together as one,” Sandwich senior co-captain Anna Goodwin said.
Blue Knights head girls’ hockey coach Steve Noll felt similar.
“The hockey community is small. It’s a special bond. We all play a sport where a lot of people can’t even skate,” he said. “We have to be there for everybody. I was blown away by how the whole community showed up.”
Teams from all over the Cape tossed aside their league rivalries for an afternoon and skated side-by-side—smiling and laughing instead of digging pucks out of the corners. Players from Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee/Monomoy, Barnstable, Dennis-Yarmouth, St. John Paul II, Plymouth North, Cape Cod Canal Youth Hockey League and Plymouth Youth Hockey among others showed their support by standing in solidarity with the Blue Knights programs.
“With all the high school hockey events I’ve been to, this is pretty special,” Sandwich head hockey coach Jordan Mohre said.
The player who was diagnosed, who’ll remain unnamed out of respect for the family’s privacy, also received a scholarship from The Gormley family while silent auctions and raffles—ranging from gift cards to local businesses to a signed Tom Brady football to Boston Bruins tickets—all raised money to support the family.
“[Rival teams] can dig in the corners hard all they want, at the end of the day there’s a larger hockey community that is very strong in Cape Cod and the South Shore,” Brian Eastman, father of Nick, said. “The hockey community is very unique in that way.
Eastman was one of the parents from the school’s booster club who helped facilitate the event and he noted the support of Advanced Embroidery, which designed 400 T-shirts and donated them in a two-day span, and Sandwich Car Wash for a generous donation the family.
The boys’ hockey program is familiar with banding together to raise money for a good cause. Every year the team participates in a ‘buzz off’ with money raised going toward the Jeff Hayes Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of a the former Blue Knight who lost his battle with cancer.
“The kids came to us with the idea and we let them run with it,” Mohre said. “They made it a reality and it’s been quite the spectacle. Hockey players are the best people in the world. They’re passionate and full of love. You see that today, not only for our school, but from everyone that showed up here today. You got Barnstable and Falmouth playing yesterday in an overtime game with huge league implications and now they’re skating side-by-side sharing laughs.”
When events occur that are greater than the game, it’s easy for players—even at the high school level—to toss aside allegiances to laundry to support a greater cause.
“We wanted to support Sandwich hockey, especially after what happened to two of our former players. We wanted to return the favor. It’s not about the teams we play in our rivalries. It’s about coming together and supporting a fellow player who is in need,” Falmouth freshman Jack Braga said.
Bourne senior Andrew Ariagno, shared a similar sentiment despite playing opposite Sandwich in the annual Canal Cup rivalry game.
“We thought we’d came out as a team and support Sandwich,” Ariagno said. “These situations are above the game. It’s nice how they invited all these teams they typically play against. [The hockey community] is all one big family.”