The memory of a teacher who died much too young is now preserved on the ice.
Colleen Ritzer of Andover was an enthusiastic, inspiring, 24-year-old Danvers High School math teacher whose murder in October 2013 shocked both communities, the one where she lived and the one where she worked. Tributes to her are maintained in a variety of ways and places — a memorial scholarship for aspiring teachers and the annual Step up for Colleen road race, held here in Andover each spring, among them.
But there’s another, which happens whenever the girls hockey teams from Andover and Danvers play.
In their first game together, a few months after Ritzer’s death, the teams pulled on pink jerseys with Ritzer’s name on the back, laced their skates with pink laces, and wrapped their sticks with pink tape. Pink was Ritzer’s favorite color.
It was a tribute to both the fallen math teacher and her little sister, Laura, who at the time was a senior skating for Andover.
“The girls really ran it, and it was great for both communities,” said Brian Seabury, then coach of the Danvers squad, which is a combined team with students from Beverly High School. “It goes to show how much Ms. Ritzer meant to them.”
As does the fact the icebound tribute still happens when the teams play, as they did last week at the Breakaway Ice Center in Tewksbury — pink jerseys, pink laces and pink tape included. The fans wear pink. Each player passes a pink carnation to Ritzer’s parents, Peggie and Tom. Money is raised for the scholarship fund. This year, the Danvers/Beverly team won the game, 3-1.
Nothing stokes a good, old-fashioned rivalry between towns like high school hockey — all prep sports, really. But nothing draws them closer together.
The small pink touches are a nice nod to Ritzer’s memory in this annual game.
But, surely, pink or no pink, flowers or no flowers, her legacy will be honored in some small way anytime these two teams compete.