New York Rangers alumni play fundraising game for Monarchs

Charity game raises $50,000 for hockey programs for young special needs athletes

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  • Photo by Sergey Klevstov New York Rangers alum Chris Kotsopoulos poses with one of the young Monarch players.

  • Photo by Sergey Klevstov New York Rangers alumni were all smiles at the charity hockey game.

  • Photo by by Celena Reid New York Rangers alumni participating in the charity game included Rod Gilbert, Bernie Nicholls, Chris Kotsopoulos, Colton Orr, Mark Janssens, Ron Duguay and Stephane Matteau.

  • Photo by by Celena Reid Monarch athletes got to play with some of the hockey greats at the charity hockey game.

By Ginny Privitar

It was a great game for a great cause. The NY Rangers Alumni played a charity game on March 11 at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm. The proceeds will benefit the youth programs of the Monarchs Hockey team.

The Monarchs is a nonprofit organization that runs youth hockey programs for special needs athletes, including Learn to Skate, Special Hockey, and Sled Hockey. It's an extraordinary organization that gives children the joy of skating and the opportunity to play hockey while learning to work as a team.

New York Rangers alumni participating in the charity game included Rod Gilbert, Bernie Nicholls, Chris Kotsopoulos, Colton Orr, Mark Janssens, Ron Duguay and Stephane Matteau. Three Rangers played on each team with the remainder filled out with parents, friends and supporters of the Monarchs. Three Maple Road Elementary School parents — Jason Lombardo, Jen Rose and Kevin Kensicki — were among the fundraisers for the event.

The "blue" and "white" teams were tied 7-7, then, in a shoot-out, Jeff Waitze of the blue team scored the winning goal, ending the game with a final score of 8-7.

Game raises $50,000But winning was not the point. The game successfully raised a whopping $50,000, which will go toward expanding the program, purchasing equipment, ice time and training for the coaches.

The Monarchs are the creation of Brad Meyers, who does not have a special needs child, but wanted to do something for the community. He set up the team, recruited coaches and organizes fundraisers like this.

"You can have the crummiest day and come out and see these kids and they're so happy — it changes your life and I feel very lucky to know these families,” Meyers said.

The event included opportunities to play in the game with the Rangers alumni, be a bench coach or a stick kid, get autographs, and meet and greet some of hockey's greats. Top event fundraisers Tom Klein, Tom Nolan, David Sonvico and Jeremy Prochaska won the opportunity to attend the New York Rangers Fantasy Camp at Madison Square Garden.

Monarch kids also have the opportunity to participate in speed skating in the Special Olympics. This year, four team members participated — each skating two races — taking home five gold medals, two silver and one bronze.

‘A lot of fun' John Boomhoover, a Monarch dad and coach, said, "The game was a lot of fun to watch; it was a competitive game, but everybody was out for the fun.”

Boomhoover and other adults there were awed watching these heroes of hockey. "To see grown men standing looking at these players they grew up with, it was interesting to see — almost like they were little kids again," he said.

What's the reward of being a coach for the Monarchs? "Taking a group of kids who wouldn’t normally have this opportunity to play," Boomhoover said. "They learn to be part of a team and work together. That's an amazing concept for these kids," he said, adding that they do so in a pressure-free environment.

Monarchs player Tristan Boomhoover plays center. When asked what he likes about the position, he said he likes "passing to the other kids and shooting." His favorite hockey player is Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins.

The best part of playing on the team? "I get to play with my friends," Tristan said, "I love the Monarchs."

The Monarchs meet most Monday nights from 6:10 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm. Kids can participate in Learn to Skate at any time and the first session is always free to try. The non-profit group is open to all kids with special needs, including out-of-county residents, and focuses on building teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play. Visit their website at

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