Young alumni play outdoor ice hockey in honor of Nick Morici ’11, who was diagnosed with cancer recently
By Alyssa Giannirakis ’14
Hockey has always been a big part of Joe Cahill’s ’13 life. He played during his undergraduate years at John Carroll and has found the game serves as a way of keeping in touch with close friends after graduation. But with all the fun that comes along with playing hockey – pond hockey in particular – these recent alums were skating for a cause: Cahill, Billy Daudlin ’13, Geoff Abrahams ’12, Sean Lattal ’13, and John Orr ’13 formed a team and participated in the 2014 Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Championship in Northern Wisconsin.
“There was something a bit more special about this weekend than just a group of Carroll guys getting together to play hockey,” Cahill says. “We were playing in honor of Nick Morici ’11, a good teammate and friend who was recently diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
The Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Championship took place on Lake Huron in St. Ignace, Wis. When the event first started in 2007, the tournament featured 27 participating teams; but this year, there were close to 600 games played by 330 teams throughout the weekend of Feb. 13-16, which was a record turnout.
Entering the tournament isn’t easy. Teams are admitted on a first come, first serve basis, and registration fills up almost immediately. The tournament has 19 different divisions ranging from a women’s beginner division to a men’s 60-and-over group. The teams are placed based on age and highest level of hockey played. This year, 2,300 players participated; and in three days, the tournament used more than 5,000 pucks.
“Almost everybody in the hockey world has heard of this tournament, and we couldn’t have been more excited when we were picked for a spot through their lottery system,” Cahill says.
Moran Bay, which leads into Lake Huron, is a unique venue for the event because it’s one of the only pond hockey tournaments in the country that plays on one of the Great Lakes. It was exciting to play outside in the elements because it creates an added difficulty to the game, Cahill says.
“This is as good as it gets,” he says.
Maybe the most creative aspect of the weekend was the group’s team name and jerseys. The alumni participating in the tournament thought it was fitting to call their team #ForeverCarroll in honor of the bonds they formed at JCU they’ll carry with them forever. The navy and gold jerseys feature Grasselli Tower on the front with a cross and Morici’s initials on the left chest. The team finished ninth in their 24-team division. Unfortunately, only the top eight teams advance to the playoffs.
Even though they didn’t advance further in the tournament, the team had an unforgettable experience playing in honor of Morici. Cahill remembers Morici as a role model and valued member of the John Carroll hockey team. One story sticks out in his mind. It took place on Cahill’s first day of tryouts during his freshman year.
“He seemed to almost take me under his wing, but then I noticed he acted that way with all the freshmen … the attributes of a true captain,” Cahill says. “As we were getting dressed for our first tryout, I went to put on my shoulder pads that were very old and torn apart. Some of our teammates poked fun at me, all in good fun, for wearing such a piece of junk. At our tryout the next day, Nick walked into the locker room and threw me a new pair of shoulder pads and said, ‘Their all yours, Joe.’”
From then on, Cahill knew the type of person who would be leading the team. Morici is the kind of man who would give up his own pads to a teammate who needed them.
With a healthy Morici on the squad, team #ForeverCarroll hopes to return to Wisconsin for the 2015 Pond Hockey Championship.
“And you better bet we’ll be back there next year with the huge addition of a healthy Nick Morici to bring home the championship cup,” Cahill says. JCU
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