BEVERLY — The Andover High Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Team played the Beverly/Danvers team at the Raymond J. Bourque Arena at Endicott College on Wednesday, Jan. 9. But it was more than a game. It was the 6th Annual Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Hockey Game, paying tribute to Andover native and former beloved Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer.
Anyone unfamiliar with the tribute would quickly realize that pink must have been Colleen's favorite color, as it was everywhere: Pink streamers, pink balloons, pink hockey tape, pink hockey jerseys, pink carnations, pink trophy and pink scarves for the fans were all on display.
Hockey siblings from Danvers and Beverly staffed a table at the entrance to the rink, handing out the scarves and collecting donations for the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, which awards scholarships to Andover and Danvers students pursuing a college degree in education. Everyone, including moms, dads, kids, and the Beverly Boys Varsity Ice Hockey Team, wore the scarves.
As the 2 teams lined up on the ice for introductions and the national anthem, seniors from Beverly/Danvers read a moving quote from a past student of Colleen's, expressing appreciation for the great teacher and wonderful person that she was. They also read another well-known quote from Colleen: "Be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."
After the anthem, in a tear-jerking ceremony, the two teams skated in line past Colleen's parents, Peggie and Tom Ritzer, each one handing Colleen's parents a pink carnation to put into a vase.
Andover head coach Kevin Drew noted: "This memorial game means a lot to our team. The reason for this game is tragic, but I'm glad to see both schools working together to make something good come out of it. Our girls see that there's more important things than just playing hockey. We have a great group of girls this year. I know they feel honored to play in this memorial game and wear the Ritzer jerseys to represent Colleen."
Peggie and Tom Ritzer always attend the memorial games. Their youngest daughter, Laura, was a varsity captain in her senior year at Andover when they lost Colleen.
In a statement, the Ritzer Family said: “The annual tribute game held in Colleen’s honor has a special meaning for our family because of our connection with the hockey community and the outpouring of support we received from that group of wonderful and caring people. Colleen’s younger sister, Laura, played hockey in elementary through high school and Colleen was her greatest, and loudest, fan. We are grateful that Andover and Danvers/Beverly continues the tradition of an annual tribute game to remember Colleen and support our family. We are beyond thankful for the resources the game raises in support of the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship. The Scholarship has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many Andover and Danvers high school graduates with aspirations to become a caring and compassionate teacher, just like Colleen.”
Andover won the game, earning the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Trophy. This trophy goes home each year with the winning team and is brought back the next season at the annual game.