The messages, delivered with conviction and passion from the players, all age 35 and over, were akin to a thunderous standing ovation to the ears of Jason Zent, one of the point men for last weekend’s inaugural National Hockey League Alumni Pro-Am tournament held at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough.
“Guys were saying that they had the best time of their lives,” Zent said about the three-day event, which generated at least $300,000 for the head-trauma unit at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The tourney, modeled after similar pro-ams that have been held in Toronto and other Canadian locales, kicked off with an alumni draft April 26 at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge. A team from Bain Capital, which had raised more than $60,000, landed Hall of Famer Ray Bourque with the first overall pick. Such familiar faces as Terry O’Reilly, Rick Middleton, Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, Bob Sweeney and other NHL alums were then selected to skate with the other 13 teams.
Sweeney, executive director of the Boston Bruins Foundation, has a lasting memory of the tourney, which included two days of hockey, and a Texas hold’em event Saturday night.
“I saw smiles on everyone’s faces,” he said. “It was a great experience, on and off the ice. ”
Zent, Sweeney, and others are already excited about a return to Marlborough next year, with the tourney again likely for the last weekend in April.