Major celebration

WESTFIELD – It has been nearly six years since Kevin J. Major, a beloved St. Mary High School hockey player passed away from sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 19.
On Sunday, three championship Cups were raised to celebrate a final victory in his honor at Amelia Park Ice Arena.
“This is my Stanley Cup,” said Mike Tanski, 24, a friend of Kevin’s, who played his senior year of high school hockey for legendary local coach C.B. “Moose” Matthews and the Westfield Bombers. “We had guys flying in from San Diego (to play in this tournament). Kevin wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It’s a scrappy tournament that I wouldn’t miss in the world for anybody.”

The SKG Ice Cats score one of their seven goals and held off Milanos to the tune of a 7-6 victory in the Pro Division championship Sunday during the seventh annual Kevin J. Major Memorial Hockey Tournament at Amelia Park Ice Arena. (Photo by Bill Deren)

Tanski’s team, the Ice Hawks, received goals from five different players en route to a 5-0 shutout of Purple Reign in the Social Division finals as part of the seventh annual Kevin J. Major Memorial Hockey Tournament. The entire team flooded the ice in celebration after the victory, but Tanski still kept things in perspective after the game.
“This is where hockey goes beyond the boards,” Tanski explained. “We all wear different jerseys and different pads, but we all have the same sticker on our helmets for Kevin.”
Boston Bruins center Frank Vatrano, 22, of East Longmeadow echoed that same sentiment Friday night in stating that he, his family, and friends were all here “for a good cause.”
“This is all for fun,” he said, noting that wins were secondary.
Vatrano and his team, Milanos upset the defending four-time champion Slapshot Regatta in a Pro Division opener Friday night, but finally fell in Sunday’s championship round, losing to the SKG Ice Cats 7-6.
Powered by two early goals from David Hallisey, the Ice Cats built a 4-0 lead, and never backed down. Vatrano helped rally Milanos with a goal and assist late in the second period, the second score coming on a bang-bang power play, feeding Tyler Kelleher with a cross-ice pass that Kelleher ricocheted across to Barry Almeida, who in turn hammered it home. The game-tying goal came with 47 seconds remaining in the second period.
SKG responded with three consecutive third period goals, two of which came from Mike Doherty to go up 7-4. Milanos scored two goals in the final 38 seconds, and nearly netted the equalizer but Ice Cats goalie Patrick Spano brushed away Vatrano’s last-ditch effort at the buzzer, and the tournament was over.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Patrick Major, who along with his ex-wife Susan Canning (Kevin’s mother) continue to organize the annual event to keep Kevin’s memory alive and promote healthy hearts in young athletes. “This tournament started with 12 teams. We have 27 teams now. The teams get stronger, and everybody plays here … from pros to NCAA Division 1 players to ‘social’ and ‘old boys’, these guys circle it on their calendars every year.”
Earlier in the night, Teddy Bear Pools blanked Pikeside Auto 3-0 behind goals from Gwil Jones, Jim Karalekas, and Chris Peck to capture the Old Boys championship Cup.
Major said “it was like the Old Boys won by a goal” the way they were celebrating after their victory).
“You had 40-year-olds flying off the bench like kids,” Major said, cracking a smile as he reflected on the enthusiasm shown throughout the week-long tournament. “I cry every time I hear about those few simple moments.”
They are moments that will forever be frozen in time.

Teddy Bear Pools

Ice Hawks

SKG Ice Cats

To Top