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The Road to the Legacy Winter Classic (Part II of IV)

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Legacy started with three hockey players (I suppose I should use that term loosely),  but we were three of the only Phoenix players that were not asked to play for the Laughing Skulls; Matt Brady, T.J. Szymendera, and myself. While it seemed like a strong enough start, it was still only a fraction of a hockey team. The team that would become Legacy was thirteen players shy of a full roster, so we did the only thing that we could think to do. We began reaching out, trying to find competitive players to fill out our roster. Unfortunately, most of the people that we knew were already playing at Skatezone, most of them for the Skulls.

Matt Brady brought four players that he had played with in a summer league at Skate Zone; Matt Stingle, Walt Mulholland, Mike Benezet and Mike Mulholland; T.J. brought in Steve D’Aurizio (and would later bring in Chet O’Neill); and I brought both Mike and Bill Kelly back, as well as several players I had found on Craigslist. We were a ragtag group that had little to no chemistry, but from our very first season, Legacy presented a sense of promise that we had never experienced with Phoenix.

In the first season, we had a solid start, nothing incredible, but it was good enough. We played well, we won a handful of games (thank you, A.J. McTighe), and we had fun doing it. Over the next two seasons, we lost several players (and “forgot” to ask for some back, remember that one guy? Beaver? I think his name was? Man, he was terrible), but we also gained quite a few. We picked up some players from our Phoenix days including Chuck Stressman, Nick Pilla and Chris Whelan. We picked up friends of friends like Carl Trainer, Mark Butterline and Steve Reddell. We picked up wily veterans like John Hall and we picked up some “unrestricted free-agents” like Eric Drennen.

The filtering and the fine-tuning finally proved successful in the Spring/Summer league of 2010 when we got to our first championship. We won game one of our best of three series and felt like it was all but over. I went out, bought two bottles of Champagne and borrowed a replica of the Stanley Cup for game two. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned and we lost, and then, well,  we lost again. The Ex-Pirates came back and took the series from us (but really, we just lost to that one guy with the gold stars on his pants. He was ridiculous. He scored like eight million goals).

I’m not going to lie, it sucked. We were angry and upset that we lost. I know, it’s only a Men’s League, but that was kind of the point, we couldn’t even win the championship in a Men’s league. When it mattered most, we couldn’t pull through, but overall as a team, we found success. That was all that I could ask for. We won games. We did what we set out to do and most importantly, we never lost to the Skulls (Okay, we did once. The game was 11-11 and it went to a shoot out, where we lost. But our record against them is like 20-0-1. Oh, and in that game, that wasn’t our goalie. It was just some random dude who played a game right before ours. We would have been better off with the extra skater).


After our hopes and dreams died (not really, well, maybe a little bit) in our championship loss, we moved forward and did the only thing that we could do, we bought new jerseys. We got better when we got our blue jerseys, so logically, this seemed like the next step. We also figured that we could completely forget who we were after losing our first championship by translating our last names into Russian for the back of our jerseys. Well, we tried to, but apparently the Hockey Shed doesn’t have Russian twill lying around. I know. I found that hard to believe too. So, much to Mike Kelly’s dismay, we got them in English. However, I realized as I was assembling the roster for the Fall/Winter season that we had more players interested in playing for Legacy than we had roster spots, so we brought in a second team, Legacy C2.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

The Road to the Legacy Winter Classic (Part I of IV)

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Around the time that I started walking, my Mom put me in a pair of ice skates and sent me out onto the rink at Scanlon Ice Rink in Philadelphia, PA. I’m sure I wasn’t on my feet for very long, but I was out there.

It’s where it all began.

Not long after my “debut”, I started playing ice hockey at Scanlon, or I tried to anyway. I’m not sure that you can call a bunch of kids skating in circles and running into each other hockey, but it wasn’t quite elegant enough to designate it figure skating either. And besides, there is no way that you would be able to confuse my Sharks jersey for a skirt and tights (the tights wouldn’t come around until I was Link for Halloween in 2009).

When I was about 8 years old, I decided that hockey wasn’t nearly as much fun as playing video games and I stopped. I mean, why spend all of that time getting suited up in all of that uncomfortable gear when I could just not? That’s the attitude I had anyway, which in hindsight is kind of silly. At that age, you don’t tie your own skates. You don’t dress yourself. It was the life. Either way, I stopped playing. I played roller hockey at the park here and there when I moved to Jersey, I played at the Blue Cross River Rink after work, and I played in a foot hockey league when I was like twelve, but none of it was anything serious (don’t tell that to Dan Pickens, R.I.P. Bulldogs).

I didn’t get started playing ice hockey again until I was 18, and at that moment I realized that I had (and have) never regretted anything more in my life than quitting ice hockey.

It was then that from the ashes of my nonexistent hockey career came Phoenix. Phoenix was a hockey team that I put together with a group of people that I worked with, only it was more than that. They weren’t just people that I worked with. They were people that I grew up with. They were people that I cared about. The team was comprised of family members, long time friends, and a few stragglers that found their way to help us fill out the roster. In some ways, it was the beginning of our own legacy.

Needless to say, Phoenix was an utter failure. We had a 15 man roster, 10 to 12 of which had never played a game of organized hockey prior to its formation. I’ll never forget the first time that we went to open hockey at Hollydell in our equipment and Matt O’Mara fell over the boards. It’s just one of those things you never forget, and not because it was hilarious (which it was), but because it was one of those things where we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. That season Pilla got checked by a girl, a slap shot snapped the visor off of my helmet, TJ was taken to the hospital, Mike Kelly got beat up by Campbell, and Bill Kelly got beat up by… well everyone. It was definitely a season to remember, especially the 3-23 finish (not exact, but probably too not far off).

A few seasons later, Phoenix died off. We were tired of losing. We were tired of Skatezone drama. We were tired of pretty much everything that you could be tired of. So we took a season off to find somewhere else to play, or at least I thought that we did. I found out a month or so after the Winter season had ended that almost everyone had joined a new team, the Laughing Skulls.

When I found out, I couldn’t help but feel a bit betrayed. My friends and my family had joined a new team and the only reason that I caught wind of it was because of Facebook (oh, the wondrous world of Facebook). I’m not going to get into the logistics of exactly what happened, or what was said, or what went on because at this point it doesn’t matter. It was miscommunication at its finest, besides the only thing that matters is that my response to the formation of the Laughing Skulls was to bring in my own team, Legacy.