Northern Berkshire Youth Hockey League celebrates 50 years with alumni game vs. former Boston Bruins

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NORTH ADAMS — 50 years of early mornings, lengthy car rides and, most importantly, love for the game was celebrated at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink on Saturday.

The Northern Berkshire Youth Hockey League (NBYHL), founded in 1969, commemorated half a century of growth and development for skaters ages 4-16.

"We started with 13 original players and I was one of them," NBYHL president Guy Cariddi said. "As a kid, I was sometimes the one that had to be carted back and fourth to games because my parents were busy. I saw a lot of people throughout my younger years giving to the program. As I got older I felt the need to give back as well."

Amanda Cariddi, Guy's niece, Syracuse alum and former member of the Boston Blades CWHL team, was the goalkeeper for the Northern Berkshire Black Bears alumni team.

"This league means so much to me," Amanda said. "My parents worked in the league for years and my uncle still runs it. I attribute all my success to this league and to all the people who help keep it going everyday."

Amanda and the Black Bears faced off against a world-class opponent that featured former NHL All-Stars and Olympians — The Boston Bruins Alumni Team.

"It felt surreal being out there with them," Amanda Cariddi explained. "It was great to skate with them and was a huge opportunity for the league."

Rick "Nifty" Middleton, a 14-year NHL veteran who was also a 3-time All-Star with over 1,000 career points were on the ice. The same was true for David Jenson of the 1984 United States Olympic team and Steve Leach from the 1988 Olympic squad.

"There are players from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s here," Alumni announcer John Horrigan said. "Our mission is to make hockey fun and raise money for charities.

"It is all about helping people. Hockey is a team sport, but life is a team sport as well."

It didn't matter if someone's resume featured a tenure in the NHL or limited time in the rink in the last 15 years — there were 12 kids enjoying their favorite sport on the ice.

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"[The Bruins Alumni Game] is a lot of fun and there aren't usually many people here," current Black Bear Brayden Canales said of the packed house. "There are the early mornings and the tough practices, but it never feels like work. I've met so many people as a member of the Black Bears and the coaches do a great job of making it fun."

Hockey can be a physically demanding sport, but Saturday's event was focused on the 50 years of relationship building the Black Bears have brought to the community of Northern Berkshire County.

"You go back to 50 years ago, that is when Bobby Orr was around and hockey started to get popular in the northeast," said Reggie Lemelin, who had two stints with the Bruins from 1987-88 and 1992-93. "Now you see all the results with generations playing the same sport together. To see different communities come out in force is a lot of fun. We play probably 35 games in a season — and enjoy every moment of it."

"We travel together as a family and try to make this feel like a pro game from playing against the pros to the audio throughout the arena," Horrigan added. "We love the Berkshires and communities like this are great because if you don't support youth hockey you miss out on team building, interaction with other players and people — basically making your friends for life at a young age.

"Hockey builds character and brings people together. It is great to be here and we're blessed and lucky to be able to [be part of the Boston Bruins Alumni team]."

Much like the Boston Alumni team, the Northern Berkshire Youth Hockey League has thrived because of community members donating time and energy for the love of the game and the relationships built from it.

"I've been involved in the league for all 50 years and I've been coaching for over 38 years. The biggest secret is that the kids don't realize that I have more fun than they do," Guy Cariddi added. "You'll hear people talk about their hockey family. We've had many many families created from teams becoming so close.

"It's exciting to think that we can put this together after 50 years. The program has had its up and downs, but it is flying at a high now with over 100 kids in the program."

The Bruins defeated the Black Bears 9-4, but Saturday's match won't be remembered for the final score, but another fond memory for Northern Berkshire County and its skating community.

Some of the athletes from the NBYHL have gone on to coach in college, play in the women's professional league, compete in the AHL and play on professional teams in both Holland and England.

Guy Cariddi coached the Black Bears Alumni team, which featured Amanda Cariddi, Aaron Rothschild, Justin Kruszyna, Gary Munson, Matt Parise, Mike Henault, Bob Sweet, Ryan Poulton, Adam Emerson, Gary Fuls, Connor Vazquez, Tanner Bird, Mike Taylor, Aaron Girgenti, Travis Lapine, Tony Moore and Jay Landy.

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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