For many high school hockey players, Christmas Eve means a day off from both school and the rink. In Hingham and Weymouth, it means a doubleheader that carries an impact that reaches well beyond the ice.
The schools renewed their border battle this year with Hingham topping Weymouth in both the boys’ and girls’ games at in Hingham. But more significant than the final scores was the effort put into soliciting donations for their local food pantries.
Members of the Weymouth boys’ team dropped off their donations later that day, while seniors on the Hingham boys’ team delivered their goods on Dec. 27.
“I’ve been going to the Christmas Eve game every year for 10 years and I don’t think there is anything like it,” Hingham senior right wing Terrence Concannon said. “The whole town comes out to see it. It’s a great experience for anyone who goes and watches, and for the players who play in the game.”
Weymouth coach Pat Kennedy estimated there were nearly 1,000 students and fans at Pilgrim for the two games combined, and spectators were very generous with their donations.
“People were packed from the boards all the way up to the wall,” Kennedy said. “Being Christmas Eve, there was a great buzz to the building. Then we had a bunch of boxes for the food pantry.”
Kennedy said last year, the teams raised about $10,000 in donations through the games for the Officer Michael Chesna Family Fund to support the wife and two young children of the Weymouth police sergeant killed in the line of duty in July 2018. This year, Hingham coach Tony Messina said the teams collectively decided to bring in donations for the Weymouth Food Pantry and the Hingham Interfaith Food Pantry.
“A lot of people don’t think in wealthier towns like these there is the need but there are a lot of families that need a lot of stuff,” said Messina, whose team also volunteers to pack meals for the Hingham pantry at least once each season. Food pantries “are going all out 24 hours a day leading up to Christmas. But we know there is a need regularly. It was basically anything we can give them.”
Messina said it is easy to get both the boys and girls players on board and it’s nice to work with the Weymouth coaching staff on the project each year before the teams battle it out on the ice.
“We hype up the game as a big rivalry, but at the same time there is a lot of respect between the coaching staffs,” Messina said. “The kids fully understand that it’s just something we always do to try to help out people in the community.
“For the seniors and the captains, it’s expected. And they make sure the rest of the kids know it’s expected from them. We have 100 percent participation.”
It’s also very much appreciated by the food pantries.
“It means everything when we have younger people come forward and help,” said Annmarie Coyle, who is the manager of food distribution sites for the Weymouth Food Pantry and whose son, Kevin, plays for Weymouth High. “So many of them start off doing it for community service requirements, but then they stick with it. We never have a bad experience. Then when adults see kids doing it, they are more apt to do it, and it makes your heart grow a little bit.”
Concannon and his family brought all of the Hingham donations to their house for storage on Christmas Eve. When they delivered them to the Hingham Interfaith Food Pantry a few days later, the players ran an assembly line carrying boxes inside and putting them in the right order for staff to distribute.
“They loved it,” Concannon said. “It was awesome. It was a lot of stuff and we loaded it into this giant [Chevrolet] Suburban. They were very appreciative. It’s a great team bonding thing for us to do every year. We had a lot of stuff, but with plenty of guys helping out it was pretty easy.”
While Weymouth came up short in both games (Hingham won the girls’ game, 8-0, and the boys’ game, 3-0), Kennedy said the atmosphere in the rink made it feel more like a holiday celebration than a regular-season game, and the donations to the community made the day all the more rewarding.
“It’s just fun,” said Kennedy. “Being neighbors and rivals, it’s usually a competitive game. Hingham is on a different level than most public schools, but we are competitive with them most years. The game has become part of our Christmas Eve. It’s like Thanksgiving football — except on the ice.”
Scott Souza can be reached at ScottSouza@journalist.com.