27th Ruicci Cup tournament honors Ted Lindsay with great hockey
Above is action from the Division Four championship game at the recent Ruicci Cup tournament with the Bombshells facing off against the Arctic Foxes. The Bombshells won this one and the Cup. (Photos by Lou Issel)
The Michigan Women’s Senior Hockey League began in 1987 with a novice team recruited by Michele Monson who had tired of just watching Red Wings hockey games and decided to become a player. She persuaded husband Gil Ruicci and their dear friend Ted Lindsay to help. Monson ran an ad in Hockey Weekly for women who wanted learn to play the fastest team sport: “No skill required – just a good sense of humor.”
Twenty-six women responded, including a few figure skaters. But most had no skating experience. Monson called Livonia’s Eddie Edgar Arena to reserve ice time and was refused because “women can’t play hockey.” Soon the arena manager got another call. “This is Ted Lindsay. I understand you have Sunday AM ice available and would like to reserve it for the year. Can we do that?” The answer was, “Of course Mr. Lindsay.”
“Well, fine. Now, this is for a women’s novice team. Any problem with that?” Pause – “No, Mr. Lindsay, no problem at all!”
So on Sunday mornings at 7:00 AM, Gil and Ted were on the ice teaching women to skate and then to play hockey. They said they knew they were making progress when the women no longer bounced off the boards to stop when sprinting in cross-ice drills. In 1992 they had grown to five teams and formed the MWSHL with a season-ending championship tournament named the Ruicci Cup in honor of sponsor Gil Ruicci. Lindsay did the honors for the championship games with an honorary face-off and then awarded each division’s champion the Ruicci Cup trophy as well as prizes to each player.
The MWSHL has six skill divisions ranked from Novice to Advanced. The top two division teams cannot participate in the Ruicci Cup because the state championship tournament takes place the same week with the winners going to Nationals where Michigan’s teams typically do very well at Senior A, B and C. MWSHL team totals range from 40-45 year to year with more than 700 players.
This year the league added a new and exciting event, a skills contest modeled on the NHL All-Star Game version. This was held on Saturday for an hour and a half in the main arena with hundreds of players and fans cheering on their favorites. As assistant tournament director Amanda Nemeth described it, “We put everything on hold for this event so all players and fans could watch and cheer. It was so exciting and really pulled the whole league together, so we will keep it going.”
Here are the results:
- FASTEST SKATER Taylor Moody, Division 1 Epcot Ducks 17.27 seconds.
- FASTEST GOALIE Tiffany Blaine, Division 3 Detroit Blades 23.58 seconds.
- SHOOTING ACCURACY Anne Crowley, Division 1 Epcot Ducks 4 goals in 7 shots.
- BREAKAWAY CHALLENGE Desiree Messina, Division 4 Top Shelf 3 goals
- BREAKAWAY GOALIE MOST CONSECUTIVE SAVES Melissa Holt, Division 1 Rampage 0.786 save percentage
For the 2019 Ruicci Cup championship games, Michigan’s famed Appliance Doctor Joe Gagnon was proud to fill in for Ted Lindsay and do the honors as well as watch some exciting hockey. As icing on the cake, after each game, he gave teams a five-minute tutorial on the safest and most economical way to operate a dish washer. (See separate sidebar.) Joe is a Red Wings Alumni player for charity games.
The players honored Ted’s memory by wearing the same red No. 7 on their jerseys and helmets as the Red Wings players do. In addition, many red-taped their stick blades and inked 7 on each side.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME ONE was for Division Four with the Bombshells facing off against the Arctic Foxes. The Bombshells netted three goals in the first period – Paula Visingardi from Karen Milczmski, Alyssa Valentine from Elizabeth Ryan, Julie Menlen from Karen Schoen. The Arctic Foxes fought valiantly to come back in the second period and most of the third, but to no avail. The Bombshells sealed the shut out with one more goal midway in the third, Ryan from Menlen.
Bombshells player Vera Clemens said their win was awesome. “The way we came together and gelled for the tournament – staying calm, playing smart, and holding our positions – this was not our normal mode of play. But we did it. The last time this team won the Ruicci Cup was 2012, and five of those players are still with us.
“We all missed Ted Lindsay today and were so happy to have Joe Gagnon fill in so well for Ted and especially to come to our locker rooms after a game with advice about safe operation of our appliances and inviting calls in to his radio show on Sundays for advice.”
Arctic Foxes player Katelyn Shelley was thrilled with her team’s performance. “We are together just two years and had a rough season with injuries, but got everyone back for the Ruicci Cup and put it all together,” she said. “We were bottom seed and had to win three games against the top teams to reach the championship game and we did! Then we got our butts handed to us today, but we will be back next year!”
Shelley is a Ford Power Train production engineer. She began playing hockey as a novice three years ago.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME TWO for the Division Five championship resulted in a close match between the Flames and the Ice Pack. The flames held on to win with the only goal of the game scored at the start of the second period, Jennifer Lambarth from Andrea-Mae Singly and Darla House.
Ice Pack captain Sherry Henderson was proud of her team and happy with the tournament, calling it “so well run and enjoyable.” Henderson is thrilled and proud to be playing with her 22-year-old daughter Samantha Glaab, and with two grandsons ages three and one in the stands.
“I began as a novice at the urging of a friend and got hooked,” Henderson said. “Our team is an Original Four in the league and has only changed four players in 25 years.”
Champion Flames captain Laurie Golden-Birchler said great teamwork was the key for her team. “We had a great season, finishing in first place, and went undefeated through the tournament, she said. “We won this once before, long ago in 1997.
“The MSWHL is a great organization, especially for me. I never skated until age 30 after I had my third child, and 20 years later I am thrilled to be a hockey player every time I step on the ice.”
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME THREE for Division Two was between The Other Team-Flying Unicorns and the Hammerheads with the TOT Flying Unicorns winning a 3-0 shutout. They had two first- period goals – Sara Russell from Courtney Hurley and Rachel Snow from Amanda Glappa – and one in period three scored by Jessica Rousseau from Russell and Hurley.
Katelyn Meck, TOT-Flying Unicorns captain, was very happy for her champions. “This was effort, sheer all-out hustle, team work and will to win! This is our fourth year together, and our third Ruicci Cup win. The Ruicci Cup is always a fun and challenging tournament.”
Hammerheads captain Michelle Reeve would have preferred a win but was pleased with her team’s tournament performance. “We played well, won our first game, then lost but won the next two to advance to the championship game” she said. “The Flying Unicorns played a great game. The MWSHL is a wonderful league. I began playing 15 years ago as a novice at age 24 and love every game I play.”
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME FOUR between the Polar Bears and Detroit Blades for Division Three was the was the most exciting of the day’s four games and the only one to go into overtime. The Polar Bears are the founding team (1987) of the league with founder Michele Monson still playing.
The Polar Bears scored at 6:42 of the first period, Sandara McFarland from Michelle Toy and Lori Statford. The Blades made it 1-1 in the second, Christine Sowinski from Chris Koselansky and Vera Bozinovski. That was it until overtime when the Blades got to hoist the Ruicci Cup at 3:48 with an unassisted goal by Koselansky. Joe Gagnon stood at the end of the Polar Bears bench for all of this game and noted that, in his opinion, the game MVP was Detroit Blades goaltender Tiffany Blaine.
Detroit Blades assistant captain Kelly Rowan was thrilled with “a fun game and winning the Ruicci Cup! We have been together six years, and this is our first championship. The whole tournament was fun, especially the skills competition. Our goaltender, Tiffany Blaine, was the fastest goalie!”
The Polar Bear’s founder-player Michele Monson said, “We played a good game against a good team but just didn’t get the bounce we needed in OT. The Blades were tough. It was another great Ruicci Cup tournament with lots of fun.”
League President and Tournament Director Vera Bozinovski was pleased that the tournament ran smoothly thanks to great league volunteer help and the Fraser HockeyLand staff support. “We had very close games showing parity in all the divisions, the officiating was excellent; the Skills Competition was a big hit and well worth the time,” she said. “We sorely missed Ted Lindsay and are grateful that the Appliance Doctor Joe Gagnon covered for Ted so well and then gave us the bonus advice about operating our appliances.”