The annual Hyde Cup hockey tournament is like learning to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool, floundering around a bit before the good swimmers teach you how it’s done.
The five-day tournament features rosters packed with skilled players both young and old, some local skaters who came up through the ranks of Stowe Youth Hockey, some who moved to town and still have their old gear, and even some who enjoyed success at the collegiate and pro levels.
It also includes players who’ve never shot a puck with a stick before, perhaps have never even laced up a pair of skates.
“It’s not always about winning, and that’s the cool thing about the Hyde Cup,” said Brittany Rogers, the tournament’s commissioner and a longtime skater.
There were only four first-time hockey players in the tournament this year, which automatically puts them on the list of ones to watch.
Under tournament rules, the newbies get their teams two points for every goal they score. They may have half the skill level of their teammates, but they’re worth twice as much on the scoreboard.
Which makes the Hyde Cup special.
Sitting in the scoring booth, Evan Carty, next year’s commissioner — Brittany is handing the puck to him after this tournament — pointed at Tom McCarthy, skating in the Rimrocks red No. 8 jersey. Two years ago, McCarthy had never skated.
Two minutes later, McCarthy scored. He’s considered a veteran now, so his goal was worth only one point, but Carty said he’s come a long way.
“This tournament has developed him,” Carty said.
Since the Hyde Cup is meant to give developing players a boost — veteran players lend their assists and the whole team goes nuts when a newbie scores — sportsmanship is paramount.
“There’s a lot of strategy,” Carty said. “You kinda let the better players score first, so they can set everyone up.”
There’s no real hard checking, and nothing ticks off a veteran player like one of his or her new teammates getting taken down.
“Sportsmanship is the name of the game,” Carty said. “If anyone’s being an a-hole, you get kicked out.”
The tournament started in 1993 as the Jackson Cup, named after the open-air arena that hosted hockey games for decades before being torn down and replaced in December 2013 by the comfortable, modern Stowe Arena.
One of the regular players was Leslie Hyde, who died of cancer after several years skating in the Jackson Cup. Organizers changed the name to the Hyde Cup and, according to Rogers, “People came to play in her honor. Not just because they love the game.”
Kiel Britton of Craftsbury remembers the year the Cup started because his mother was the very first tournament MVP in 1993. She was a goalie. He was 10 years old and had been playing with Stowe Youth Hockey for a few years already. He and his dad still play together on Sunday nights.
“That’s the cool thing about the Hyde Cup — I don’t skate with those guys regularly. I mean, they skate Tuesday nights and I skate Sunday nights, and when we do this, I haven’t skated with them in a few years,” Britton said.
Rogers said each team has at least one woman on it, and there are often more. In the beginning, especially, this was the case, since it was a family affair, and Stowe High School hadn’t yet started churning out hockey alumni, because there wasn’t a team yet.
“When it started, it was dads and moms, and most of the moms were just learning to play, so they were all the 2-pointers, and a lot of the dads had played for a really long time, and they just set them up,” Rogers said.
You have to be at least 18 years old to play in the Hyde Cup, but the organizers make sure to include the youth where they can, such as recruiting high-school hockey players to referee the game
Or, take little Stewart Lemnah, hanging out in the scorer’s booth, looking for ways he can help, making faces at the music that Carty and Rogers are choosing to play during game stoppages. He skates with Stowe Youth Hockey — he used to be a Mite, but now he’s a Squirt — and is already relaxed around the backstage area of Stowe Arena.
His job was manning the penalty boxes, letting skaters in and out.
Aww, he’s the nicest guy out there, Rogers said as Rimrocks’ Brian Bailey got slapped with a penalty. She directed little Stewart: Make sure you tell the skater there are no penalties in the Hyde Cup.
Stewart grinned, but didn’t muster the nerve to chastise the red-bearded big person — smiling, sweaty, with skates — for breaking the rules. He did keep his hand on the sin-bin door latch, watching the clock until Bailey’s 1:30 penalty was up and he could be released back onto the ice.
“Don’t touch it. The legend is you’re playing in a tournament; don’t touch it until you win it.”
That’s the rule for the actual bronze-colored cup that teams are vying for, Carty said.
So, go ahead and grab it, team Rimrocks. The red-jerseyed team won it all this year and Tom McCarthy, the skater who Carty said just started playing hockey in last year’s Hyde Cup, was this year’s winner of the prestigious Lady Byng trophy.
That’s the name of the same trophy given out in the National Hockey League every year, to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
• This year’s MVP was Jed Lipsky, who Rogers said has been part of the tournament for a long time.
• The Puck Whisperer award, given to the goalie that “really stands on their head” throughout the tournament, was Melanie Bouchard (she’s little Stewart’s mom).
• The Old-Time Hockey award, for someone who’s been part of the tournament “since, basically, forever,” went to Mike Priestly.
• The Maple Syrup award, for the runner-up MVP: mike Gauthier.
• And the first-ever “Postie Award,” named for Don Post, a former coach who died in a gilder crash last year, went to Dan Noyes, a state representative from Wolcott who is a regular at the arena. Rogers said the award goes to “someone who gets out, tries their best, might not always hit the net …”
“We wanted to figure out a way to bring Don into the Hyde Cup,” Rogers said. “He was a huge part of hockey in this town.”