ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - While the Blues battled Edmonton at the Scottrade Center Friday, another group of hockey players found themselves in Forest Park, doing what they love to make a difference.
Joe Fresta, Jr. is a two-time cancer survivor and lifelong hockey fan. Last year, the Cancer Care Foundation Board Chairman came up with the idea to merge the two, at an event that would come to be St. Louis’s only outdoor hockey tournament.
Fresta says, “It just brings back that feel of pond hockey again for a lot of these older guys that may have played on a pond at one point in their lives.”
Roughly 200 recreational hockey players play in this three-on-three three-day tournament.
For Mike Renieri, it’s a chance to bring back memories of playing outdoor hockey as a kid: “Having the atmosphere, the elements affecting the game, and if it’s a beautiful night, sometimes it’s just surreal.”
All week, the elements have offered nothing but rain and snow, falling from gray skies. It’s depressing weather to many, but perfect for hockey. Renieri explains, “I think its fine, temperature-wise is really all that matters, as long as the temperature stays below 32 the ice should be fine, and a little bit of snow adds a little bit of flavor to the game.”
As it often happens in St. Louis, for Renieri, it all comes down to high school. He says, “I’m playing with some guys I went to high school with back in the day, from Lafayette, Parkway Central, Parkway West, so that makes it fun, too.”
Last year, the tournament raked in $120,000 from entry fees, corporate sponsors and other donations. This year, Fresta hopes for $200,000.
When he was battling cancer, Fresta realized it’s a serious financial burden. That’s why the money raised here has an immediate impact, helping lift the burden off families with a loved one suffering from cancer. He explains, “We help them out, whether it be paying their gas bill, or transportation to and from treatments or paying their insurance costs.”
The tournament will run all weekend, along with a rink-side winter carnival, featuring ice carving, a sled hockey exhibition, face painting and more.