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Papers from Our Past: A Rye Hockey Tradition Tells a Story of 9/11

(PHOTO: The Rye Rangers at the Memorial Cup.)
(PHOTO: The Rye Rangers at the Memorial Cup.)

MyRye.com is working with the Rye Historical Society on Papers from our Past. The Rye Historical Society Archives contains centuries of stories, from everyday life in Rye to significant events in American History.

by Alison Cupp Relyea, Director of Programming and Education for the Rye Historical Society

With Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we are sharing a Rye story with the hope that it will inspire community members to pause to remember. Sometime this fall, the Rye Historical Society will plan a storytelling event to capture and document stories from 9/11. Thank you to Steven Ketchabaw and Rocky Shepard for founding the Memorial Cup and the Good Skate tradition decades ago, and to Jay Altmeyer for helping us tell this story.

One doesn’t have to live in Rye very long to become familiar with Rye Rangers hockey. Whether your children play in the program or you run into the young jersey-clad players with their parents at Starbucks or Playland Market early on Saturday and Sunday winter mornings, the Rye Rangers are a community institution. With home rinks at Playland and Rye Country Day School bookending our small town, the Rye Rangers give Rye its status as a hockey town.

Rye Rangers - Tommy Palazzo, Teddy Maloney and Ward Haynes
(PHOTO: Tommy Palazzo, Teddy Maloney and Ward Haynes.)

Twenty years ago, when the September 11th attacks devastated our nation and shocked the world, the Rye Rangers were hit hard. Three men, all players in the league and husbands and fathers, were killed in the attacks. For the Rye Rangers, the loss of Tommy Palazzo, Ward Haynes and Teddy Maloney left an emptiness that could not be filled, but the club immediately stepped into action to honor their memory and support their families.

Rye Rangers - Good Skate Award
(PHOTO: The Rye Rangers Good Skate Award.)

On December 15, 2001, only three months after the September 11th attack, over sixty players and hundreds of fans packed the ice rink at Rye Country Day School for the Rye Rangers Memorial Cup. The game brought everyone together doing what Ward, Tommy and Teddy loved most – playing hockey and spending time with friends and family.

At that first game, an award was dedicated in their honor. Rye Rangers families know this award as the Good Skate Award. For families with young children in the program now, most of whom never knew Tommy, Teddy and Ward, it is through this annual award that their legacy of character, friendship and sportsmanship is carried forward.

“It is hard to think that 20 years have gone by since the tragedy of 9/11,” said Rye Ranger Rocky Shepard. “We lost so many wonderful folks that day, and our hearts go out to all their loved ones. The Memorial Cup was such a much needed release for all the members of the Rye Rangers Hockey Club. I know that everyone who was involved felt much the same way. Honoring Tommy, Teddy, and Ward was our way of honoring ALL the victims. This wonderful tribute will last forever, and I, for one, am very pleased that this is our way of saying …we will never forget!”

From the Rye Rangers website, here is a bit more background on the Good Skate award:

On December 15, 2001, the Rye Rangers staged a memorial hockey game and fundraiser for the families of the three members of the club who died in the tragedy at the World Trade Center. These individuals are Tommy Palazzo, Teddy Maloney, and Ward Haynes. The day was a huge success.

At the Rye Rangers Memorial Cup, we dedicated an award called the “Good Skate Award.”  What struck each of us as we remembered our friends was how genuinely good they were, how helpful they were to their friends, how loving they were with their families, and, generally, how much fun they were to be around. In rink jargon, each one was what you might call a “good skate.” A black granite trophy with an imbedded silver skate was created by one of our members, Gerry Baum, to remind us of this goodness and to inspire us to be better individuals.

The inscription on the Good Skate Award states that it is to be: “Presented annually to the member of the Rye Rangers Hockey Club voted by his/her peers as best epitomizing the human goodness of these special individuals.  It shall be forever known as the “Good Skate Award.”  Its enduring legacy is to serve as a reminder that we are all better human beings for having shared our lives, both on and off the ice, with these guys.”

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As the Rye Historical Society turns to the community for September 11th stories and artifacts, the video below about the Memorial Cup will be one of the first to be archived in our digital collection, along with the meaning behind the Good Skate Award. We hope you will take a few minutes to watch this video and honor these three men and the thousands of families who lost loved ones twenty years ago. A shorter version of this video was shown at the New York Rangers pregame show at MSG on December 23, 2001. Please reach out at alison.relyea@ryehistory.org if you have your own 9/11 story to share.

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