On early December 20, the Long Island HS hockey world lost an important member to its community.
Marie Drisco, the longtime general manager of the St. Anthony’s hockey program for over 20 years, succumbed in her long battle with breast cancer.
Drisco took every student under her wing and made them feel like part of the St. Anthony’s family.
According to St. Anthony’s head coach Jeff Stemlok, Drisco managed five teams -- two that compete in the Catholic League, two that compete in the Suffolk County HS Hockely League, and an independent team for those who did not make an official league or club team.
“For kids that didn’t make a team, she found a place for them to play,” Stemlok said. “She had a team...where kids that were learning and developing and wanted to try out for teams the following year had a chance to do that and still stay involved with the program.”
Simply put, Marie Drisco was St. Anthony’s hockey.
“Everybody had a good relationship with Marie. She was always at practice she came to all the games that she could,” Stelmok said of Drisco. “The only reason why she couldn’t (attend games) was because she was getting her butt kicked by chemo or she was in the hospital fighting it.
“The program kept her going and it really distracted her from her illness,” Stemlok continued. “She’s really going to be sorely missed. This program was her life, and her life was the program.”
One of those players that Drisco had an impact on was St. Anthony’s forward Chris Wallace, who had the game-winning goal in a 5-3 victory over St. Peter’s Prep.
“She meant everything. She directed our whole program,” Wallace said. “She was the head of our hockey program and got everything in order. It was devastating.”
Pulling emotions together and deciding whether to play the day after Drisco’s death was something that Coach Stemlok and the St. Anthony’s community had to weigh.
“Everybody was in complete 100-percent agreement that Marie would want the team to play,” Stemlok said. “We as a staff wanted our kids to go out there and do it for Marie.”
The Friars paid tribute to their late general manager by wearing pink tape down the middle of their helmets.
“This is a special group, they’re great kids,” an emotional Stemlok said. “They’re fantastic hockey players, but they are even better people.”
When the night was finished, the Friars were two better than their opponents. But the score in the end was irrelevant, and Marie Drisco was still fresh in their hearts and minds.
“The kids were wearing their hearts on their sleeves,” Stemlok said. “We won the game for Mrs. D. That was our goal, no question.”
Game-winning goal scorer Wallace certainly agreed.
“This one was for her.”