On July 15th, the Comm Ave Charity Classic will hit the ice at Walter Brown Arena for the second time, a bevy of NHL players, both past and present, representing the history of the Green Line Rivalry between Boston University and Boston College. For one of its founders, former BC forward Pat Mullane, it’s more than just about the hockey.
The charity hockey game got its start with inspiration from another former Eagle, Ryan Shannon. Shannon, a native of Darien, CT, started The Big Assist, an annual charity game to raise money for the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation, which gives money to Connecticut residents who suffer from spinal cord injuries. Mullane was inspired to do something in the memory of someone close to his heart, Dick Kelley, former Boston College sports information director for men’s basketball. “He and I used to meet monthly and bi-monthly and just talk about life,” Mullane said. Kelley was diagnosed with ALS in Mullane’s junior year, and when Kelley passed away in 2014, Mullane sought to make an event of his own for the ALS community. With Pete Frates, a major face of the ALS community with the Ice Bucket Challenge and so connected to the Boston College community already, a charity game seemed like the perfect thing to do.
Still, there are challenges to bringing an event of such a magnitude like the Comm Ave Charity Classic together. “Last year, no one really knew what it was going to be, not even us,” Mullane said. “It’s very hard to go to ESPN and other big organizations and say, ‘Hey, here’s this event for ALS that you don’t know about but we want your help to raise money.’” Two Boston newspapers provided a lot of help in promotion, articles written by the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe helped to raise a lot of awareness for the event, and from there, it took off. “A ton of people reached out the week before to cover it, and when we showed up, there were 3,500 people there, we had raised $55K, and when you look down at the ice and see three former Hobey Baker winners, two Hall of Famers, you truly feel this event is for real.”
Even with players so willing to come out and play, it takes a lot of effort to make everything work. Despite the obstacles, Mullane said “the players are so welcoming and receptive,” and with the caliber of talent on both teams, it certainly shows. On this year’s roster, the highlights include three defending Stanley Cup champions, Nick Bonino from BU, Brian Dumolin from BC, and special guest Connor Sheary, an alum of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. There’s also one Penguins special guest who Mullane understands this event touches close to his heart. “Craig Adams, who graduated from Harvard, is the son-in-law of former Mass. governor Paul Celucci, who was diagnosed with and passed away from ALS,” Mullane said. Recent Boston University graduate and Ottawa Senators prospect Matt O’Connor has also had ALS touch his family, his grandmother diagnosed with the neuron disease.
One addition this year is that proceeds of the game and festivities will not only be raised for Compassionate Care ALS, but also go to the Travis Roy Foundation, a name Boston University certainly holds close.
While there are an amazing pool of players hitting the ice on July 15th, Mullane reminds us who the event is truly for. “A lot of these people are gonna be there for the hockey aspect, which I respect, that we put this on because it’s an unbelievable opportunity to watch the best players in the world in the summer, but at the same time, how much that these charities mean to a lot of the people involved. From Pete Frates, who is an incredible son, brother, friend, husband, but most importantly a father, it gets lost a bit. People see him for the Ice Bucket Challenge, but he’s a great father. It’s the same with Dick Kelley and Travis Roy, these are incredible men, and we’re putting this game on for them.”
The Comm Ave Charity Classic is on July 15th with a puck drop slated just after 7p.m. at Walter Brown Arena. Visit www.ccals.org/2016-cacc/ for more information and to buy tickets.