WOONSOCKET — So what if it was the morning after Christmas? To the roughly four-dozen former Mount St. Charles hockey players who took to the Adelard Arena surface wearing red or white sweaters, this particular occasion was not about to be missed.
The sight of the Mounties’ glorious skating past coming to life at this time of year is nothing new. In what could be viewed as the perfect appetizer, an alumni game is always staged on the same day that the puck drops on the MSC Holiday Face-Off Hockey Tournament.
Yet as Mount Athletic Director Richard Lawrence explained while surveying the action from the stands, the 2013 version of rounding up the hockey troops from different eras and decades contains extra meaning.
“This is particularly special because this marks the 50th anniversary of the rink,” Lawrence stated.
Yes, Brother Adelard Arena, the venerable building located off Logee Street, is celebrating its 50th jubilee. Players from yesteryear received a private tour of the newly revamped locker rooms, but ask Bryan Berard and he’ll tell you that not much has changed from the Adelard Arena he grew accustomed to during the early 1990s and how it appears today.
“The fences are up; it’s still the same old arena,” smiled Berard, the Woonsocket native who played 10 seasons in the NHL after getting selected as the top overall pick in the 1995 Entry Draft. “It’s still shocking how small it is, but there are a lot of good and fond memories here from playing with Mount and the Woonsocket North Stars. It’s nice to come back, skate and see some of the guys.”
There were two alumni games Thursday. The first one at 10 a.m. was a mixture of the players hailing from the 70s, 80s and up until Berard’s tenure. The age demographic for the second game that began at 11:15 featured players from the mid 90s pairing up with someone like Zachary Samborsky, who graduated from Mount in 2011.
Samborsky’s father, Mike, received his MSC degree in 1980.
“It doesn’t end when you leave,” said the elder Samborsky about the affinity and fondness that he and many of his fellow Mount St. Charles hockey alumni still have for the school and the program even though many moons have passed since their high-school careers officially ended.
Echoed John Trainor, MSC Class of 1990, “It’s special when you see the guys you played with and watched growing up.”
Along that line, Gail Bryson, director of alumni at Mount, barely has to lift a finger when spreading the word via email regarding the specific date for the annual hockey alumni reunion.
“The hockey community is very tight. Everybody knows one another,” Bryson pointed out. “A lot of them also come back for Bill.”
As in Bill Belisle, who like Adelard Arena is at the top of the list of people and places you think of when ruminating about hockey at Mount St. Charles.
You knew that Belisle was not going to pass up an opportunity to see his former pupils set foot on the same sheet of Adelard Arena ice that at one time served as the player’s domain. The only difference is that Belisle chose to take it all in from where the paying customers sit rather than his familiar spot on the bench.
“The one constant is Coach Belisle. It’s great to see that he’s still active,” said Trainor, who was accompanied by his four-year-old son Gabe. “You almost think to yourself, ‘Gosh, is coach going to be mad at me for something that I did?’”
Thursday marked Gabe Trainor’s first-ever appearance inside Adelard Arena.
“To me, it’s like Fenway Park. It wouldn’t be the same if things changed and were different upon coming back,” remarked John Trainor. “Time goes on and things change in society, but you want to savor this as long as you can. This is a place where not much has changed.”
There was an actual element of change that took place between the two alumni games. Players from the earlier contest took off their jerseys and skated across to the bench so that the players in the second game could once again experience the thrill that comes with putting on such a prestigious jersey.
On a morning set aside to pay homage to the golden anniversary of one of Rhode Island’s most hallowed sporting halls, the overriding sentiment was that Adelard Arena has truly withstood the test of time.
“It’s a joy to see the guys renew their camaraderie. A lot of them probably don’t see each other until they come here,” said Lawrence.
“Here” being Adelard Arena, still going strong after all these years.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03