Number of Participants: 24
Hours Donated: 1
Value of Time Served: $203
Event Type: Civic & Community
Sport: Boys Ice Hockey
Date: January 17, 2022
Brookline High School
Greenough Street, Brookline
When Jacob Gurdin steps onto the ice Friday night, it will be more than just the typical high school hockey game for the Brookline senior captain. It is the latest big step in what has been an ongoing journey of community service and philanthropy in the Gurdin household, and for their extended hockey family.
Brookline will face off against Lexington in the Travis Roy Beanpot at 8 p.m. at the Foxboro Sports Center, following the tournament opener between Bishop Feehan and Newton North (5:30 p.m.). The consolation and championship games will be played Saturday night, and the four-team event will benefit the Travis Roy Foundation.
“As I try to teach the kids, hockey’s great, but it’s better when it’s for a purpose,” Brookline coach Michael Yanovitch said.
It all started on a car ride several years ago, as Gurdin contemplated what he wanted to do for his bar mitzvah project.
“I remember I was actually [riding] to a hockey tournament with my dad, and brainstorming different ideas,” recalled Gurdin, who at the time was playing for the Boston Junior Eagles. “I thought about different foundations, and I had been to a Travis Roy Foundation fundraiser.”
What resulted was a simple four-team tournament among local teams in 2017 at Warrior Ice Arena, modeled after college hockey’s Beanpot.
“A lot of temples have the tradition of the kids giving back, doing some kind of community service project,” said Lisa Gurdin, Jacob’s mother. She then added, with a chuckle, “Of course, we have to do a whole thing . . . and it was a whole thing.”
The initial tournament raised more than $19,000 through donations, silent auctions, and raffles.
“I don’t know how we did it, but we did it,” Lisa said.
The Gurdins had the opportunity to meet and work with Roy, who was paralyzed during his first shift for Boston University in October 1995 and later started the Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors and fund research toward a cure for paralysis.
Despite the monumental undertaking, the Gurdins continued the Junior Beanpot Tournament. Then two years ago, during Gurdin’s sophomore season, Brookline hosted a Junior Beanpot game against Plymouth South at Walter Brown Arena.
“At the time we were trying to build a program, and show kids how to give back,” Yanovitch said. “We were lucky enough that Jacob was tight with Travis.”
Yanovitch recalls Roy speaking to the teams before the game, in the same building where he was injured 25 years earlier.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room,” Yanovitch said. “It was an unbelievable moment.”
Last summer Yanovitch had the idea of expanding it to a four-team tournament in honor of Roy, who died in October 2020. One of the first to respond was David Franzosa, who had just taken over as coach at Bishop Feehan, where AJ Quetta was playing when he suffered a spinal cord injury on the ice a year ago and now is an assistant coach.
As the Gurdins and Yanovitch scrambled to find a venue this year, Franzosa — also the president of the Foxboro Sports Center — helped to secure the donation of the ice time on what typically is a busy hockey weekend.
“The hockey community and beyond have been so generous and caring for AJ,” Franzosa said. “Once I heard that, I said this is where we need to step in and help out.”
Said Lisa: “Dave has been instrumental, and we’ve continued to collaborate to make this a really good event. They were able to donate the ice, and every year that’s our biggest cost, so that just means more money to the foundation.”
In addition to a silent auction and 50/50 raffle, there will be sales of T-shirts and hats, as well as Roy’s book, “Eleven Seconds.” An opening ceremony between games Friday is scheduled to include appearances by Roy’s parents, Lee and Brenda, and Bruins anthem singer Todd Angilly. The Travis Roy Foundation also has a webpage for online donations.
“My mom definitely does, I’d say, the majority of the day-of planning, the logistics,” Jacob said. “I ask all the time what I can do.”
While there is the obvious connection, Franzosa says Quetta is adamant that “it’s Travis’s night.”
“It’s one of those causes that when it’s put on your radar, it resonates, and you want to help out,” Franzosa said. “This is about Travis and to honor him. AJ included, we’re just proud and honored to be a part of it.”
Lisa was quick to credit Yanovitch for making this year’s event happen under trying circumstances, particularly with COVID. She said there is the possibility of another youth-level Junior Beanpot later this year, and other upcoming initiatives such as the Junior Beanpot 24 Challenge, a fundraiser with a nod to Roy’s jersey number retired by BU.
Meanwhile, Jacob doesn’t know what the future holds once he graduates from Brookline this spring, but notes that his brother Noah is a sophomore defenseman for the Warriors.
“I’m hoping we can keep [the Beanpot] going,” he said.