Turning hockey fun into fund
In its fourth year, Phil Edwards tourney raises scholarship money
TUPPER LAKE — When temperatures dropped into the negative teens over the weekend, the fourth annual Phil Edwards Memorial Hockey Tournament heated up this town’s civic center, memorializing the man who helped build much of the building and attracting hockey lovers from all corners of the state.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said this was the tournament’s third year.)
Hundreds of Tupper Lakers, Rochesterians and Brooklynites packed into the recently renovated rink, shooting, skating, cheering and, yes, even fighting.
After six teams of 19- to 60-year-olds faced off in two games each for the championship title, Tessier Paving came out on top for the third year in a row, beating out Lakeview Lanes 5-1.
Organized by Hayley McCottery, the events coordinator for the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce, and funding the Phil Edwards Scholarship, the tournament has quickly become a favorite for local and distant hockey enthusiasts of all ages.
Though Edwards was known as a humble man, never seeking the spotlight for the impeccable construction he volunteered, the chamber now honors him and his contributions to the town with a tournament putting the rink to good use.
Edwards was a contractor who, in 1986, took it upon himself to help lay the brickwork, construct the bleachers and assemble the lobby of Tupper Lakes’ ice rink, all for free.
“There’s so much pride in the place that the maintenance of it has been top notch,” civic center Director Jonn Kopp said. “We probably have the best rink in the North Country.”
He put meticulous effort into his construction, directed many other volunteers and prepared the rink to be a hub for families, friends and rivals to gather.
“He was a master builder, everything he built was perfect,” Kopp said. “He did the lion’s share of the work.”
Putting an uncommon level of care into his work, Edwards was forward thinking, preparing the building for a second-floor mezzanine he would never see constructed. The project was finally finished last year when the school district, which now owns the rink, used $440,360 from a capital improvement project to add a heated mezzanine, showers and ceiling-heated stadium seating.
“There’s not a place that you can to now and have to sit in the cold to watch a game,” Kopp said.
The warm seating areas keep the stands and glass packed with families, children and other onlookers who would otherwise have been frozen out by the sub-zero temperatures raging outside.
The action on the ice was intense, with two games won in overtime shootouts, a big comeback from Tessier Paving against High Peaks in an elimination round, shooting three goals in the last two minutes to make the final score 5-4, and even a short-lived hockey fight Friday.
Most players came from western and northern New York but Mike Dewyea, a Tupper Laker currently living in California, made the 2,500-mile trip to play for Lakeview Lanes. Kopp said he loves how the tournament has quickly become a must-attend event in Tupper Lake and how it brings together the hockey community from within the town and across the nation.
“There’s a lot of guys that grew up playing hockey here that knew Phil and grew up in the era when he was building all this,” Kopp said. “They’re in their 30s and 40s and are spread out across the nation but they come back here for that tournament. And they will not miss it.”
The money raised through the tournament funds a scholarship in Edwards’ name that is given to one Tupper Lake high school senior each year. A 50-50 raffle at the tournament was donated to the Rochester Americans team to go toward their own April 20 tournament for juvenile diabetes, according to McCottery.
Kopp said he was impressed with how well McCottery did organizing the tournament for the chamber.
“It reminds me of what people like Phil, what they’re able to accomplish for the community,” Kopp said. “That’s probably my favorite aspect of it; just a reminder of what these guys did for no money, for no reward. They just did it because it was a good thing to do for the community and it will continue to be so for decades to come.”