By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Mike Matros employed a small army of volunteers and other staff to make possible this year’s Hero’s Cup charity first responder hockey tournament held April 12 – 14.
But when it came time to retreat into an office hidden off the main corridor of the New England Sports Center (NESC) in Marlborough, that army was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Matros tapped his wife Caitlin and the two dragged a pair of chairs into the room, sitting to write a speech for the tournament opening ceremony later that night.
Sure, members of the proverbial army filtered in and out, asking questions ranging from where a specific locker room was to what to do with a four foot tall grill that a tournament attendee donated. Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney even called at one point.
But, eventually, Matros closed the office door and kept his speech writing, like the core of the event organization itself, a family affair.
“We embrace them in it,” Matros said of his kids, Teaghan and Jake, in particular who were also present for the tournament. “This foundation has become our life. It’s something we do together.”
Indeed, Matros’ elementary school aged children featured prominently in the tournament even as it hauled in over a half a million dollars for charity, and featured roughly 1,600 first responders playing for 102 teams from across North America.
His daughter ran a bake sale. His son ran a clinic on stick handling. Both generated excitement in their school talking about the event.
Beyond his kids, Mike and Caitlin both also treat Hero’s Cup planning as a year round, part time job.
But as they pride themselves in that family focused tournament, the Matros duo are still quick to credit their volunteers.
“It started with a rounded board of different skill sets and different backgrounds and has become [a group of] our close friends,” Mike said. “They come back every year. They mark it on their calendars. This tournament could not run without them.”
The Hero’s Cup is truly gargantuan. Sprawling over the eight rink NESC campus, filling its 64 locker rooms and packing its parking lot, the event has maxed out the biggest hockey facility in New England and thus taken the title as one of the biggest hockey tournaments in the country. And it’s done all of that in just three years.
While some of that growth is thanks to Matros’ volunteers, he is also grateful to local and regional businesses and the Marlborough city government for further making it all possible.
In particular, the tournament gathered approximately $100,000 in sponsorship money this year that came from companies like National Grid, 98.5 the Sports Hub, and even the Boston Bruins.
“You ask them to do something and they certainly will use their leverage to help raise money, elevate the cause, elevate the awareness about the event,” Matros said of the Bruins partnership.
All this has given Matros massive charity donations and a sprawling social event for first responders to be proud of. But sitting in that office at NESC, he wasn’t focusing on those things.
New this year, Matros said his son has started a charity of his own called the Musketeers, that sends supportive letters and offers friendship to children who are bullied or are otherwise struggling socially.
“That’s the most rewarding part [of this endeavor],” he said. “He did that because he wants to start a foundation to be like dad.”
Matros hopes to continue growing the tournament now not in size, but in the vigor with which participating teams fundraise before it. Having already seen the personal and organizational benefits of incorporating his family so closely in the event planning, he sees family staying just as prominent in the tournament’s future identity. For Matros, no matter how large it gets, the Hero’s Cup will always remain a family affair.