On Saturday April 18th, two lacrosse communities were scheduled to come together as one of the most storied sports rivalries on Long Island was supposed to be renewed. But with the spring season being suspended because of the coronavirus and subsequently cancelled this week, the annual “Woodstick Games” between the Manhasset and Garden City Boys JV and Varsity teams as well as the Girls game will not take place this year.
Also cancelled was the 10th annual “Woodstick Alumni Classic”, a game featuring alumni from both Manhasset and Garden City to benefit “Monster’s Kids”, an organization that raises funds that go towards the Pediatric Surgical Operating Complex at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
“Monster” is the nickname of former Long Island (now New York) Lizards star Tim Goettelmann, who graduated from Manhasset High School in 1996. Goettelmann, whose wife Lisa went to Garden High School, launched the event in 2011.
“I married Garden City,” chuckled Goettelmann, who met his wife in college at Loyola in Baltimore, Maryland. “I married the enemy.”
Goettelmann played 131 games at attack for the Lizards from 2001 to 2011 and scored 266 goals to go along with 92 assists for 359 points. The attackman wanted to do something special during his final season because he didn’t really want to retire. He still loved playing lacrosse, but realized that it was time to pass the torch to a younger wave of players.
So, he decided to put his money where his mouth was…literally.
“When I was reluctantly finishing up my career with the Lizards, I wanted to do something and give back to the game, said Goettelmann who is an Executive Vice-President at R-T Specialty, an insurance company that is a subsidiary of the Ryan Turner Group.
“We reached out to (former Islanders star) Pat LaFontaine (who has his own “Companions in Courage” charitable organization) and also spoke to an old family friend, Kevin Dwyer, who at the time was the Senior Vice-President and Chief Development Officer with North Shore-LIJ, to find a spot to donate my salary for my last year.”
Goettelmann’s generosity and desire to give back didn’t end with giving up his salary. He worked with the hospital to do a cocktail party and then, along with help from his best friend from his playing days at Manhasset High School Dan Denihan, the Monster’s Kids Woodstick Alumni game was created and made it an annual event. The regular season game between Garden City and Manhasset was something that had both communities circling the date on the calendar to begin with, but for the last decade, the alumni game was an added bonus and in its first nine years raised over $760,000.
Not having this special day of lacrosse this year because of the Covid-19 outbreak is devastating to both communities.
“The longest rivalry in high school sports is the “Woodstick Game” going back to Jim Brown (the Pro Football Hall of Famer who played football and lacrosse at Manhasset),” said Goettelmann. “Its a whole day event with alumni from both towns bringing their families and enjoying a great lacrosse atmosphere. All the funds raised are donated, not just from Garden City and Manhasset alumni, but from family, clients, friends and people who just love lacrosse and helping children and families in need. Not having the Woodstick this year is a big disappointment.”
And the thought of trying to move the Woodstick Classic to another date was not an option once the high school season was cancelled because Goettelmann believed that the alumni game and the three high school games fit together like a lacrosse glove.
“We would do the game outside of the high school games,” said Goettelmann, who was inducted into the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation Hall of Fame. “That was the whole point of the Woodstick is that we would always follow the high school. It was an event that everyone in each town circled on the calendar.”
Alumni from both schools that wanted to play in the game had to sign up on a website and make a donation in order to participate. With the uncertainty of whether or not the game was going to be played, many former players didn’t sign up and now that the game is cancelled, the goal of reaching $1 million over the ten years of the event would have to wait at least another year.
But without the game, Goettelmann has still found a way to raise money for Monster’s Kids coming up with the “I Miss Lacrosse” movement and fundraiser. Using the hashtag #IMissLacrosseChallenge, people can donate money to the charity and then nominate others to do the same with a lacrosse activity at home in the backyard, even if it’s just a pass or a catch. The challenge raised $16,000 over the first two weeks.
“The game was cancelled so a former Garden City Alum from the Class of 1988, Tom Boyle, reached out to me with the “I Miss Lacrosse” video idea and we spun this off,” said Goettelmann. “We got the idea from the ice bucket challenge.”
Tim and Lisa have been busy at home during the quarantine. They have four children, daughters Emerson (12), Stella (11), Reese (10) and Benjamin (6) and lacrosse has been a popular activity. The plan is to resume the Woodstick Classic next year and the hope is that sports at all levels can return sometime soon when it’s deemed to be safe to do so.
Tim Goettelmann loves lacrosse and wants to see this event grow each and every year. Maybe one day, his children will take charge of the game.
“We use this as a good teaching model with our kids thinking of others and giving back,” said Goettelmann. “I hope it carries on. The goal is to keep it going. We want it to go on forever.”