SCHENECTADY The home of the championship-seeking Union College men's hockey team has been taken over by a four-day benefit tournament featuring adult women's hockey.
Instead of collegiate athletes slamming each other into the boards and firing shots at high speeds, women spanning almost half a century of age took to the ice for a good cause.
The sixth annual Stick it to Brain Tumors fund raiser started Thursday and features 12 teams of various skill levels from New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
The games featured a lot of experienced players, but it was the first time participating for Ann O’Brien, who just began playing hockey in October.
“It’s good to take up hockey in your 50s,” the Troy resident joked on Saturday. She became emboldened to make the leap after meeting a group of players from Vermont and hearing the story of one woman who didn’t start playing until much later in life.
Her husband, Eamon O’Brien, who was on hand to watch her play, was very impressed by the event. “It’s a great cause and we’re really delighted to be able to participate.”
The cause was chosen by Debbie Jackson, a Niskayuna resident who began the tournament in honor of her son Bryan. In 2002, when he was 13, the avid hockey player and fan was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Now 23, he is doing well and recently graduated from college in Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He is moving next month to Ithaca to work on a family business.
He speaks highly of the fund raiser and is glad that it revolves around hockey, because it gives his mom a chance to hit the ice, as she plays for the Messa Mustangs, based at Union’s Messa Rink. She’s really into it, he added.
This was echoed by Debbie, who said she would play every day if she could, but is just happy to get on the ice two nights a week with the Mustangs and for as many games as she can with this tournament.
The tournament began on Thursday and goes through today.
“We started this event to raise money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer,” she said “Brain cancer is one of the least funded cancers out there and it is devastating, so we need the money.”
Proceeds for this year’s event will go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and John Hopkins Division of Neuropathology for pediatric brain tumor research. This year the hope is to generate about $20,000 through a raffle, silent auction and corporate sponsorship. In the first five years of the event it has raised more than $90,000.
For her, the reason to hold a hockey fund raiser is more than just a chance to play hockey. Recounting the overwhelming response from the local hockey community when her son got sick, she said it made it sense to rely on them for this. “The hockey community is tight knit,” she said.
The tournament concludes today, with play beginning at 8 a.m. and ending with championship games starting at 1 p.m.