From the time hockey legends of yesteryear began checking into the Hampton Inn & Suites on Post Road in Warwick until Sunday’s awards ceremony was held inside the famed carousel building at Goddard Memorial State Park, the Rhode Island Reds Heritage Society’s 18th Annual Reunion smashed all sorts of attendance records.
“We had approximately 255 people here today,” Sylvester “Buster” Clegg, the highly-acclaimed non-profits president, exclaimed during Sunday’s awards-buffet luncheon. “This was a great, great weekend for everyone.”
The now-storied event, which welcomed upwards of 30 former professional hockey players and their guests over the weekend, was highlighted by presentation of the Tops Award, a marvelous memorial named in memory and honor of the late and legendary Zellio Toppazzini, the Reds all-time scoring leader and “Player of the Century.”
The 2018 Tops Awards went to the late Dave Creighton and George Army during Sunday’s standing room only awards feat.
Creighton was a former player and coach while Army became legendary in the training business. Members of their families accept the honors.
But the three-day event was more than an awards ceremony.
The always-colorful meet-and-greet event was held inside the Hampton Inn’s second floor conference room that was filled with fun, laughter, per a special comedian.
But perhaps Saturday evening’s dinner-dance epitomized the Society’s mission to restore and preserve the 51-year fabled history of the professional hockey franchise that ruled the Rhode Island roost so to speak from its origin in 1926-77 to its final season in 1976-77.
People like Bill Connell and Vin Cimini will attest that the dinner-dance was, “classic camaraderie and a social event extraordinaire.”
Moreover, in keeping with tradition its many first-class presentations, when people checked into the Grand Ballroom at Chelo’s on Post Road they received a colorful and classy card replete with the Society’s logo and night’s agenda.
Dinner-dance goers were also greeted to the special sounds of The Barley Hoppers, a three-member trio from Hope Valley that plays everything from honky tonk to blues to rock and role to country.
Their music created a special mood in what would be a jam-packed room, just as it used to be when organ music greeted hockey fans at the once-famous Rhode Island Auditorium on North Main Street or a place named The Penalty Box, a bar-restaurant located almost adjacent to arena.
While the dinner-dance was highlighted by presentation of Fan of the Year Award to Helen Duffy, Marisselle Mayer and Shirley Toppazzini and the George Patrick Duffy Awards to Boston Bruins broadcaster and former WJAR-TV sportscaster Jack Edwards, there were stories and memories unlimited about when professional ice hockey in Rhode Island was perhaps even more received than the now beloved Pawtucket Red Sox have been since the late and legendary Ben Mondor bought the once-bankrupt franchise in 1977 and turned it into a model for all of Minor League Baseball in America.
Cranston’s Tom McDonough, who was once the Reds’ stock boy who also does a marvelous rendition of the American and Canadian national anthems, turned in yet another great job at the event’s emcee.