The Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament took place this past weekend, with 100% of net proceeds going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. I attended the event on its second of three days, Saturday, July 30, and I was able to announce live at the event as an honorary captain and learn about the backstory behind it.
When I arrived, I met Mike “Pitbull” Palelli of the Power Play Hockey League, the primary organizer of the tournament. He generously gave me and the other honorary captains free Puzzle Cup gear. As a member of the Coast Guard, he also gave us his official Coast Guard poker chips, reserved for people he cares deeply about. He even included an extra poker chip and hat for my grandpa, a retired Army National Guard Colonel. One of Mike’s best friends from the military has a son with autism. Since then, autism acceptance has been an important cause to Mike and it inspired him to dedicate this tournament to the autism community.
Flutie Fellow and Special Olympic golfer Tyler Lagasse was among the honorary captains. This was my first time seeing Tyler since I watched him win his first gold medal at the 2022 USA Games. Tyler has always been a hockey fan as well as a fan of the cause. In addition to a ceremonial puck drop, Tyler had prepared a speech to give to players in the locker room.
Many other honorary captains took part in the opening ceremonies. Spectrum of Sound, the Flutie Foundation’s choir, came to sing the national anthem, and several others had the chance to participate in ceremonial puck drops. Fellow aspiring sports reporter Josh Stanbrook and I were able to announce it all, and I stuck around for some play by play.
After going on the ice, we were all pretty hungry and thirsty. I had a burger fresh off the grill with some fries and my favorite sports drink, BodyArmor. BodyArmor, a partner of the Power Play Hockey League, was sponsoring the entire tournament. I took the opportunity to thank BodyArmor, because it not only kept me hydrated in the Orlando heat when I covered the Special Olympics, but also was directly supporting the autism community through this event.
Before I left, I had the chance to catch up with a couple players and a referee as they got off the ice for the day. I also had some more time to talk to Mike and hear about his deep care for this cause. It warmed my heart to hear that Mike, who I had just met, already saw me and the other honorary captains as members of his own family. I’d like to thank Mike Palelli for his immediate support as soon as we met. He is one of many great people I have met through the Foundation.
I also had to say my goodbyes to my other friends from the Foundation, as this was the last event I would be attending before heading off to college for the semester. However, this is far from the end of my involvement with the Foundation. I will always be a proud member of the Flutie Foundation family, and when I return home, I hope to attend and cover more Flutie Foundation events, including next year’s Puzzle Cup. Hopefully, like Mike said, next year’s tournament will include an expanded field of teams and raise even more money for the Flutie Foundation.