BOSTON — Boston University and Boston College may have one of the greatest rivalries in college hockey — not to mention two of the strongest programs — yet when the teams work together, they’re even more potent.
For the second year in a row, former players from both sides — mostly all with ties to the NHL — joined forces at Walter Brown Arena in the Comm Ave Charity Classic to raise money for Compassionate Care ALS and, new this year, the Travis Roy Foundation.
Coached by legends Jack Parker and Jerry York, the star-studded teams played in memory of Dick Kelley (former BC assistant athletics director for media relations), Jim Cotter (former BC High School football coach), Ron Perryman (former BC linebacker) and BC alum Richard Armstrong — all whom were diagnosed with ALS and have since passed away. They also played in honor of Pete Frates, a former BC baseball captain who’s battling ALS, and Travis Roy, the former BU hockey player who suffered a spinal cord injury on the ice just 11 seconds into his first shift in 1995.
“It meant a lot [to play in this game],” said Pittsburgh Penguins forward Nick Bonino, who played for BU from 2007 to 2010. “It’s fun to come out and play, but we’re all here for Pete and Travis and how they inspire everyone. We’re happy to be a part of it, we’re happy that we’re allowed to participate with their initiatives, and it’s always fun when you can raise some money and play hockey doing it.”
The newly minted Stanley Cup champion said he felt honored to be out on the ice for a poignant ceremonial puck drop with Roy, and his current Pens teammate Brian Dumoulin (BC 2009-12) was there with Frates.
But standing off to the side were the two individuals who were really at the center of it all — Pat Mullane (BC 2009-13) and Andrew Orpik (BC 2005-09). Mullane, who currently plays in Finland, came up with the plan for CACC after playing in a similar charity event a few years ago run by another former Eagles player, Ryan Shannon.
Mullane said he “was amazed by how it was run, how receptive the players were, how receptive the fans were, and so I said, ‘I have a great hockey community, I’m going to do this.'”
He then reached out to Orpik — who played professionally for two years — and the two have been working together to build CACC into an annual tradition to help foundations close to their heart.
Mullane said he was inspired to connect with an ALS charity because Kelley was a mentor to him while at BC and showed him what it meant to be an athlete there.
“Whether it was in Conte Forum or in a classroom, Dick really stressed being a man for others, being respectful, humble and loyal,” said Mullane. “I learned a lot from him and it was just one of those things — watching him kind of deteriorate was so hard and it was always in the back of my mind that I want to help a guy who has helped me so much.”
Frates also was part of the motivation in creating the event — not only was he a fellow BC athlete, but he has a love for hockey as well. Frates played in high school at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass.
“After practice at Conte, Pete would actually come out and skate with us every once in a while,” said Orpik. “I got to know him just because he was always around — guys on the baseball team and hockey team would hang out. I’ve had a good relationship with him, but when you hear something like that [being diagnosed with ALS] happen to somebody, you always wonder what you can do. So, between Pat and I, this became what we could do to help out.”
Pete’s younger brother, Andrew Frates, was by his side, not only thankful to be part of CACC, but happy to see Pete smiling alongside Travis Roy watching the game together.
“Pete claims hockey is his favorite sport even though he played Division I baseball,” Andrew said with a laugh. “He just really loves the game so much. One of his favorite moments was when the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup.”
Andrew added: “We love the intimate, community-driven events like this because these people have supported us from day one. BC jumped on board the first day of diagnosis, and we can’t thank the BU community enough for hosting this event and getting involved.”
BC may have switched it up and won this year (13-8), but money-wise, CACC 2016 was successfully on par with last year’s inaugural event, raising a hefty $55,000. With The Travis Roy Foundation now a part of it (last year it was just for Compassionate Care ALS), the proceeds will be split.
Roy, an inspiration to many in the hockey community and beyond, said it was a no-brainer to come on board with his foundation and said he is “honored to be a part of it.”
“Travis is one of our own, so we wanted to get him involved,” said Mullane. “Hockey is the most giving sport, the most loyal sport, and you often realize how small the hockey world is — everyone knows everyone. So that being said, everyone is very supportive and loyal, so it’s very easy for these guys to come back and give; it’s a special part of the hockey community and culture.”
Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau (BC 2011-14) expressed the same sentiments.
“I love coming back to Boston; it’s a great city, and it doesn’t get more fun than playing a BC versus BU game,” he said. “It’s a ton of fun for both teams. It’s great to see the guys that you played with and played against.”
Looking to the future, Mullane and Orpik said they hope CACC will grow to eventually fit inside a bigger venue like Agganis Arena, Conte Forum or maybe even the TD Garden. They’re also toying with the idea of expanding it to become more of a Beanpot event including Northeastern and Harvard with their respective charities.
“The sky is the limit,” Mullane said.
The atmosphere at Walter Brown was gratifying for everyone. Mullane and Orpik were organizing raffle auctions and handling every other logistic, often stopping to receive a handshake and a “nice work” nod.
The pros playing connected with old friends and had a no-pressure game. Roy and Frates were proud to be a part of it. And fans from the opposing schools weren’t shouting chants against one another, but instead, little kids lined up against the boards in excitement, holding signs that read “Go BU” on one side and “Go BC” on the other.
The BU-BC rivalry will ignite again during the season, but for at least one day every July, the two programs unite to achieve a common goal. As the saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.