The annual Kitchen Kup roller hockey tournament features the best-of-the-best in summer hockey, and this year, founder Joe Brennan is handing over the reins on the summer battle to the younger generation.
This week, he said the 22-team double elimination tournament that will unfold this Saturday and Sunday in ‘The Kitchen’ (a/k/a/Eden Street Park) will be mainly organized by two younger Kup players – Hughie O’Donnell and Cam DelValle.
Both have helped Brennan for several years on the tournament, and this year Brennan said he was ready to turn over the day-to-day duties to the younger guys – taking on an advisory role to the new crew.
“I’ve been looking for a younger generation to step and up and help out for a few years,” said Brennan, who started the tournament 16 years ago and brought it to national prominence. “These guys both stepped up last year, and they’re the most competent out of all the guys that I’ve seen. I think what sealed it was last year at 10 p.m. when they were still there sweeping up and cleaning the court. That’s what sealed it for me. So, I’m taking a back-seat role and letting them take the bull by the horns.”
O’Donnell said he and DelValle – who will also play on the powerful O’Donnell Young Guns team in the Kup – are excited to take on the leadership role.
“I think for the most part when he asked us, it was about giving back to what we grew up watching and what we now play in and look forward to every summer,” he said. “It’s an atmosphere we wanted to make sure continued into the future so that the young kids could see us play like we saw the older guys play when we were young. It’s kind of about being a positive role model and continuing to have a safe, competitive atmosphere. It’s the best hockey in Boston and we want to showcase that to people in Charlestown and to the neighboring cities.”
Brennan said he’s been very excited by what they’ve done so far, including going out and getting sponsors and asking for help from the community.
“They did a great job getting this organized,” he said. “I gave them the letterhead and tried to get them out in the community with it and in front of people as much as possible. That let people know they were in charge.
“The tournament kind of takes care of itself with the talent and notoriety, but there is a lot of things you have to accumulate, the legwork, and getting sponsors,” he continued.
The weekend looks like an ideal one to be on wheels – with no rain projected for the first time in more than a decade.
Naturally, the Charlestown teams – including the O’Donnell team and Brendan Collier’s team – have affixed a target on the South Boston ‘Mooks’ team, which has won the Kup two years in a row after losing it three years ago.
“That Southie team is going to be back and they will be contending to retain their title,” said Brennan. “It’s a little bit of an adjusted team from the last two years, but they are going to be in contention again.”
O’Donnell said to watch for is Nolan Doherty’s crew from South Boston, as well.
O’Donnell’s Young Guns are also a team that could make a run and take it all, Brennan said.
“These kids are at that age where they’re going to be in serious contention for the finals,” said Brennan. “They’ve been close several times, and this could be the year they do it.”
O’Donnell also called out The P’s Team, as well as The Tips, as teams to watch.
Naturally, Collier’s team will also be one of a host of Charlestown teams shooting to knock Southie off their pedestal and back over the North Washington Street Bridge – empty handed, of course.
“The Charlestown teams – with Collier’s team and all the others – are going to be tough,” said O’Donnell. “There are a lot of Charlestown teams going all out for it. I can see a Charlestown team taking it all this year.”
Referees George Dighton and Mike Doe will once again be making sure everything is fair and square, as they have done for years, and the drawing for pairings in the double elimination tournament will take place Friday evening at The Kitchen.
In a fun twist, Brennan, O’Donnell and DelValle have created what they’re calling the ‘Press Pantry’ at The Kitchen, which will be a spot for Brennan to broadcast most of the games and commentary on Facebook Live.
“If people can’t make it down for all of the Kup, they can tune in and not miss any of the action or the commentary,” said Brennan.
And as always, the lore of the vaunted tournament has increased once again this year following the Stanley Cup series between St. Louis and Boston. Brennan said it was noteworthy that two players, Matt Grzelcyk and Zach Sanford, both scored goals in Game 7, and both played in the Kitchen Kup when they were younger.
“Both of these guys played in the Kitchen Kup, and Sanford scored a goal in Game 7 for St. Louis, and of course Grzelcyk scored for the Bruins in Game 7 too,” he said. “The next kid that comes out of here this weekend could be doing that same thing in years to come. It’s what’s great about the Kitchen Kup.”
Sponsors this year include RW Sullivan, Grasshopper Café, Lyndsay Hill Design, McHugh Electric, Baar Realty Advisors, Paul Anthony Long, Continuum, Starbucks, Labor Assistance Professionals, Elmont Capital Consultants, DC 35 Painters Union, and Councilor Lydia Edwards – among others.