Heseltine Tournament 2023 - Wrap-up and Thank You!

Thanksgiving weekend, 1981, the Andover mite hockey team invited some neighboring towns to get together for an informal holiday competition. A few months later, an Andover resident named Scott Heseltine who grew up playing youth hockey in town was tragically killed in an auto accident. The following Thanksgiving, the tournament was held again, this time in memory of Scott. With a few interruptions, the Andover Hockey Association has hosted a mite tourney each Thanksgiving weekend since then. The original tournament featured a couple of teams playing on the Friday after Thanksgiving at the old, cold Smith Rink, with hot chocolate after the games.

This past weekend, AHA hosted 26 mite travel teams (and 10 house league teams) from around the Merrimack Valley, North Shore, and Greater Boston region for the 40th anniversary Heseltine Memorial Mite Tournament. Hundreds of players skated their hearts out, while parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members and friends cheered. AHA raised thousands of dollars for charitable endeavors, including our own community based initiatives as well as the Scott Heseltine Memorial Scholarship at Austin Prep (where Scott attended high school), which is awarded annually to a deserving student from Lawrence (where Scott’s parents were raised).

At “the Heseltine” this weekend, we had food trucks and tailgating well into the evening while hundreds of kids burned off (more) energy under perfect late-fall New England skies. The Boston Bruins’ Todd Angilly sang the national anthem for us before a slate of games on Saturday. Generous bidders brought home autographed memorabilia featuring Brad Marchand, Tom Brady, and of course, Taylor Swift. And to cap off the weekend, Charlie Heseltine handed over the championship trophy bearing his family's name to the Andover Mite 1's. It was, as always, an epic weekend of fun, family, and community.

During this past weekend I had great conversations with members of the AHA community past and present. I watched some really skilled players competing with as high of a level of intensity as is possible for an 8 year old. And while I spent over a dozen hours at the rink between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon, there were lots of people who were there much longer than me. In fact, there are several people who have been planning this event since before our season even began this summer.

This tournament could not have taken place but for the hard work of AHA members and friends. First and foremost, recognition is in order for Michaela Balford, Lauren Davis, Jen Montgomery, and Jacqui Ambrose (who is also AHA’s new social media director), who led the tournament planning committee and ran the event flawlessly. 

Special thanks are also in order to the following AHA volunteers: Jay Hubbard (who ran the “bull gang” assembling the half-ice boards and only lost two fingers), Fran McGuinness (volunteer and referee coordinator), Anne Marie Savage (auction/raffles), Heather Ward (check in table), Bob Romano (AHA’s Mite director and all around dad of the year), Andrea Igo (scheduler extraordinaire), Tammy & Jim Doyle (AHA’s treasurer, who set the record for most $1 Venmo transactions processed in a 3-day period), AHA’s mite coaches (led by Adam Mackie, Bob, Glenn Stevens, and Jay), board members (led by Fred Porter, VP of member relations; Ed Donnelly, VP of business and operations; and Rich Enos, VP of coaching and player development), and sponsors, all of whom donated significant time and resources to this cause. Apologies if I left anyone off this list inadvertently - I truly appreciate all our volunteers.

Many of the above names are repeated from last year, and I hope all will be involved again next year. However, as a 100% volunteer run community based non-profit, we are always in need of more help - and, importantly, we also want to identify the next generation of AHA leadership. If you will have a returning mite player, or currently have a player in the house league or learn to play and plan to participate in travel hockey next season, please get involved and help make next year's event bigger and better.

Thanksgiving traditionally marks a turning point in the hockey season. At the pro level, it is often said that is when the season truly begins (we shall see if that is the case for the Bruins this year). Our high school players are going through tryouts this week (some of whom were already on ice at 6am this morning). Many of our youth teams are gearing up for the excitement of holiday travel tournaments at destinations which will soon resemble winter wonderlands. Meanwhile the AHA machine keeps rolling along, with nearly 30 teams - approximately 700 players - and hundreds of volunteers ready to spend the winter on the ice together as a community. As we conclude Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful that I have the privilege to serve this great organization as president. Further, I hope the rest of your season can match the fun and excitement that we experienced at the Heseltine tournament this weekend.


Tim Bennett

AHA President