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The McHugh family gathers with supporters for a day on the ice
The McHugh family gathers with supporters for a day on the ice

Pond hockey tourney honors Saranac Lake, Potsdam student

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The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival came to a close over the weekend and it was highlighted this year by a new event - the Casey McHugh Memorial Pond Hockey Tournament.

Outdoor pond hockey is regaining popularity here in the North Country. This event was held in honor of Casey McHugh, a popular graduate of Saranac Lake High School who attended SUNY Potsdam.

He passed away last year after being injured in a skateboarding accident. Chris Morris reports that the tournament was a huge success, raising money for a scholarship fund which organizers plan to establish in Casey's memory.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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On  Sunday, scores of skaters are rotating onto the ice outside the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department, sticks slapping bodies bumping. 

 Pond hockey has seen something of a rebound recently in the North Country, with towns around the region reviving their outdoor rink. 

On this day, though, the competition is secondary.  This is the inaugural Casey McHugh Memorial Pond Hockey Tournament.

Players are lacing up their skates in honor of Casey McHugh, who was just 19-years-old when he passed away following a tragic accident last summer.

 Emily Doyle attended Saranac Lake High School and SUNY Potsdam with Casey and helped organize the event. She says it wasn’t long after her close friend’s death that she began looking for ways to honor his memory.

 “I just woke up one day and thought it might be cool if we all got together somehow,” she said. “I chose Winter Carnival because everybody is home. And I chose a pond hockey tournament because that’s what he used to do with his brothers.”

For the tournament, the teams feature at least six players each and range in age from 14 on up – some of the players were stars in high school and college, others are teachers and coaches from local school districts.

 Casey’s mother, Kathy, says the tournament was bittersweet – but an excellent way for family and friends to remember her son.

 “Casey would have loved something like this, so for her to do this is his honor is great,” she said. “But at the same time, it does tug at our hearts. I was totally supportive and Sean was too. It’s a great idea. We had an ice rink at our house in Lake Clear and Casey spent a lot of time shoveling that rink and skating on it.”

 Many of Casey’s friends described] him as endlessly upbeat. Emily Doyle reflected on her friend as someone who didn’t need much to make him happy.

 His father, Sean, agrees.

 “Just a stick and a puck and he’s all set for the day,” he said. “That was Casey.”

 One of Casey’s older brothers, Ryan, says when they were growing up, the McHugh brothers turned everything into a competition – from cross-checking on the ice to brushing teeth before bed.

 “Just about everywhere it was a competition,” he said. “There wasn’t much estrogen in our house. My mother was it. With four boys? I don’t know what I would have done.”

 Ryan’s twin brother, Brennan, says the loss of Casey left a void – but it’s also brought him even closer to his family and friends.

 “You realize just how lucky we are for how great our friends are and how great my family is,”

And although Sunday’s event is more about community spirit and comradery than it is about goals and assists, someone has to walk away with the tournament championship.

So perhaps it was fitting that a team featuring Casey’s three brothers took the title – with the youngest, Patrick, notching a hat trick along the way.

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