When Cranston native Brian Moretti passed away suddenly in March, the Cranston High School West hockey program he loved rallied around his memory. The Falcons went on to win the Division I championship, with Moretti’s initials on their helmets.
The high school season is over now, but Cranston’s hockey family will continue to rally next month and – his family and friends hope – for years to come. On May 10, the Cranston Ice Rink will host the Brian Moretti Hockey Classic at 3:30 p.m., with West alumni squaring off in the name of their former teammate.
“His family really wanted to have a game like this, and everyone who knew him wants to do everything they can to help keep his memory alive,” said Cranston West assistant coach Matt Brannon, who was a close friend of Moretti’s.
The response has been strong, with 30 players – all from an eight-year span that coincided with Moretti’s West career –committed to playing in the game, which will raise money for a scholarship fund.
Moretti graduated from West in 2005 and is the only two-time captain in the history of the school’s hockey program. He went on to play hockey at Johnson & Wales and graduated with a degree in sports entertainment/event management.
After finishing his masters degree at Canisius, he was beginning a career in the Sports Information Department at St. Bonaventure University. After a game in the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament in Richmond, Va., Moretti was out to eat with athletic department staff when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 26.
“It was just such a shock for everybody who knew him,” Brannon said. “Twenty-six years old. You don’t expect that.”
Teams at St. Bonaventure dedicated games to Moretti. Back home, the Falcons were getting prepped for a playoff series with Coventry. Brannon told them about Moretti, and their response was immediate.
“They basically dedicated everything to him,” Brannon said. “They really embraced it. These are kids who didn’t know him at all, but they went out and won a championship for him and his family. It was amazing.”
Brannon told the Falcons that Moretti always regretted that he had never gotten a chance to win a high school hockey championship. The message hit home.
“In all my years of being in sports, I’ve never had a more humbling experience than seeing what these kids were willing to do night after night to win for someone that they never met,” Brannon said. “The last two weeks of the season were such a roller coaster of emotions for me personally and these kids were there to pick up a community that was grieving. It just goes to show you what type of character these kids had.”
The scholarship fund game will allow friends and family to follow suit and do their part. The game will raise money for a newly-created fund that will hand out annual scholarships to a graduating senior at Cranston West, beginning in 2015. Donations are also being accepted and can be mailed to the Rhode Island Foundation for the Brian Moretti Scholarship Fund, One Union Station, Providence, RI 02903.
Brannon hasn’t been surprised at the response. He was four years older than Moretti so they didn’t play for the same West teams, but they got to know each other in the years after high school and remained close.
“He would light up a room,” Brannon said. “He was always smiling, always cracking jokes.”
In his short time at St. Bonaventure, Moretti was already making his presence felt.
“He made a huge impact,” women’s basketball coach Jim Crowley told Fox Sports. “I’m a better person because I knew Brian and there’s very few people I would say that about.”
Family and friends are hoping to make the scholarship game an annual event. A golf tournament is also in the works, and the West hockey program will likely retire Moretti’s number in the near future.
Tickets to the inaugural game are $5 and will be sold at the door. Kids get in free. In addition to the hockey action, there will be raffles and T-shirts for sale. For more information, contact Matt Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.