Another year has passed, but Andrew Gauthier’s memory is still being honored in Warwick the same way it was five years ago.
And it’s still just as special.
The Andrew J. Gauthier Hockey Festival is returning to Thayer Arena on January 20 for its sixth year, where teams from around the state will descend on the rink for seven games, lasting from the morning until late at night.
It’s all a tribute to Andrew, who played with Warwick Junior Hockey and then at Toll Gate before he died in 2007 due to complications from leukemia. The festival was created that same year by Andrew’s parents, Bob and Kathy, and his brother, Bobby, and it’s been going strong ever since.
All the proceeds from the event go to the Andrew J. Gauthier Scholarship Fund, which presents scholarships every year to Warwick student-athletes.
It’s an emotional time of year for the Gauthiers, as Andrew was born on Christmas Day. But the festival helps.
“This is one of the ways that we celebrate his life,” Bob Gauthier said. “Christmas is not easy, but we still have a lot of family and friends that we get together with and we still talk about him, how funny he was, what a great kid he was. We still have that to hold on to. Then we still have the hockey festival.”
This year’s festival will feature seven games, which is the most it’s ever had. There will be two girls’ hockey games – one featuring the Warwick co-op team and another featuring the defending state champion La Salle team – followed by games with all the Warwick public schools, Cranston East and West and Narragansett, among others.
All in all, it’s 14 teams, which should make for some exciting hockey all day long.
“It’s a lot of hockey for one day,” Gauthier said. “But we’re looking forward to it. I’m sure it’s going to be a success as it always is.”
The day will also feature the popular chuck-a-puck competition, as well as a 50-50 raffle and various sports memorabilia, including autographed pictures from the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics that are available for purchase.
It really is a marquee event. The Gauthiers start planning it almost as soon as the previous year’s festival comes to an end.
“As soon as the last one’s done, we’ve go to start working on what’s going to happen the next year with the teams and schedules,” Gauthier said. “There’s a lot to it. It’s only one day, but the rest of the year takes quite a bit of time.”
And he expects the turnout to be big, just as it’s always been. That’s the sort of support the community has provided since day one.
“I met some friends last night, and they said, ‘Don’t even consider that we wouldn’t be there,’” Gauthier said. “It’s automatic. They’re there the day before, too. Martin Luther King Day is that weekend, yet that’s where they are for the day. I don’t even really have to ask them. They’ve already got the day penciled in on the calendar.”
There will also be a tree lighting this Sunday at Toll Gate, where family and friends will decorate a Christmas tree dedicated to Andrew at 1 p.m.
It’s just another example of how the Gauthiers and everyone else keep the memories alive.
Then it all culminates with the hockey festival.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to stop,” Gauthier said. “No one is going to let it stop.”
For a complete schedule of the Andrew J. Gauthier Hockey Festival, please see the Beacon leading up to Jan. 20.