For a few years now you have been subjected to reading my thoughts about Thatch and Finn’s hockey experiences with Cape Ann Youth Hockey. There is, after all, a lot to say….or, I suppose, write about. Rites of passages, teammates, championships, early mornings, smelly gear, miles of travel, scheduling nightmares, learning opportunities, goals, assists, penalties, wins, losses and laughs…lots and lots of laughs.
Through it all, the highs and the lows, shines the Sal Grasso Memorial Friendship Tournament. It’s a big deal with Cape Ann Youth Hockey Nation….and this past weekend was the 26th annual.
Since 1987, Cape Ann Youth Hockey teams have been playing in this tournament against Westmount teams from Quebec. The tournament alternates home ice. Two years ago the maroon and white caravanned to Montreal and enjoyed three days of hockey over the border. Last year, the Westmount teams came to us. Then again, in turn, this same time last week Cape Ann families started the trek north.
Some left on Wednesday, some Thursday, and others finally on Friday. Some made pitstops in Burlington, Vermont, some stopped to visit family along the way, and others checked in early to catch a Canadiens game at the Bell Center. All, however, were united in the children’s love for the game…and, if I do say so myself, their commitment to foster that passion and turn it into memories to last a lifetime. Martyrs we are not, however….for most of us were also united in having a really good time for ourselves. No doubt we all get a kick out of watching our children take the ice (over and over again) especially in Canada, but we get just as much of a kick out of team dinners, yummy cocktails, and late night hours in the hotel lounge. The Westmount Tournament is a perfect balance of all of the above.
Sportsmanship, friendship, and teamwork are at the heart of it all, but both countries will tell you that winning is nice too. The Westmount teams, unbelievably, took the trophy for the tournament’s first 14 years in a row! Since then, Cape Ann has won seven and Westmount four…well, now five. This year the competition was neck and neck, but in the end Westmount was victorious by just a couple of games.
While Cape Ann was sad to leave the trophy behind, we are all looking forward to next November already. We will be back on home ice, ready to make new memories and regain possession of that prize.
Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, and coaches. Thank you for the time, effort, and hours you put in every day, but especially during the time leading up to and during the very special Westmount Tournament. For the love of the game, for the love of hockey, and for the love of our hockey families. Until next year.
The Cape Ann/Westmount Friendship Tournament was started back in 1987 by Sal Grasso of Gloucester and Mike Deegan and Peter Wallace of Westmount when Sal paid for a bus out of his own pocket and took a crew of Gloucester kids 6 hours north to play some hockey. The trek was a huge success as most players billeted with host families and formed bonds that continue to this day. When Sal passed in 2006 the Tournament was aptly re-named the Sal Grasso Memorial Tournament.