Twelve years ago, Warwick firefighter Chris Librizzi and his family started a charity golf tournament. Librizzi's son, Zachary, had been diagnosed with Juvenile Type 1 Diabetes and there was a strong desire to do something positive for the cause. The tournament was born, and it has raised more than $900,000 since then.
This year, the cause will hit the ice.
Librizzi approached Warwick police officer Al Marano about rekindling an old hockey rivalry between the fire department and the police department. Marano and the police department jumped on board immediately, and the Mayor's Cup Hockey Game quickly became a reality.
Hockey teams from the fire and police departments will square off at Thayer Arena on Saturday, March 30 at 7 p.m. Proceeds will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“We really wanted to do something else in addition to the golf tournament,” Librizzi said. “I approached Al Marano and he thought it was a great idea. Three months later, here we are.”
Roughly 500 tickets have already been sold. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased by calling Librizzi at (401) 623-9611. They will also be available at the door, though it can't be guaranteed that tickets will be available.
Organizers are hoping for a sell-out.
“We're really looking to pack the place and have a great atmosphere,” Librizzi said.
There's a hockey history for the police and fire departments. Teams used to play each other in an annual game – not for charity – in front of sell-out crowds. Fifteen years ago, the game was discontinued after a fight.
All parties involved guarantee that there won't be any problems as the rivalry is renewed.
“It'll be an intense, physical game, but this is a brotherhood between the fire and police departments and we're here for a good cause,” Librizzi said. “Nobody's going to be dropping the gloves.”
What will still remain is good hockey.
Thirty-five Warwick firefighters have high-level hockey experience, including Chris Winnes, who played parts of three seasons in the NHL, and Matt Anthony, who played in the ECHL. The police department has 18 or 20, including John Curley, another former ECHL player.
The fire department annually fields a team for a tournament in Cape Cod, and that team will be together again for the Mayor's Cup. The police department was a little short of a full roster so it recruited a few Rhode Island State Troopers.
Combined, there's a lot of hockey experience – and plenty of desire.
“Somebody said to us, 'If the police don't have enough, why don't you guys just give them one of your lines?'” Librizzi said. “We said, 'No way.' It's for charity, but it's a full-fledged game. It'll be a lot of fun.”
And the action on the ice won't be the only attraction. There will be face-painting, a chuck-a-puck game, a tee-shirt toss, raffles and a sports memorabilia silent auction. Firefighter John Halloran, a member of the popular local band Those Guys, will sing the national anthem.
“I think it's going to be a blast,” Librizzi said.
A host of volunteers will lend a helping hand, and Librizzi praised local businesses that have pledged their support with raffle items. Mayor Scott Avedisian is expected to attend, along with the police and fire chiefs and several other dignitaries.
Librizzi is hoping to raise at least $2,500.
“That's my goal, but I'd be thrilled if we could get more than that,” he said.
And he envisions this year's game as just the beginning. The plan is to play again next year, with the police department choosing a charity.
“We'll go back and forth like that,” Librizzi said. “Hopefully, when I retire, it's still going.”
The golf tournament is certainly going strong, and there's no reason to think the hockey game won't follow suit. The good cause is a perfect fit – and the rivalry lives on.
“We're going to win,” Librizzi said. “I'm very confident that the fire department is going to come away with it.”