By Burlington Tifa
Photos: Chris Eadevito
With help from generous local businesses, a New York City-based group of “beer league” hockey players recently defeated several NHL teams. Those victories weren’t earned on the ice, but in the NHL & NHLPA Hockey Fights Cancer Challenge, an online fundraising campaign which benefitted Movember; the worldwide leader in men’s health. The Moustache Classic, founded by Elmhurst native Matt Caputo, raised $22,176 for the Movember foundation’s mission to spread awareness for men’s cancer and suicide prevention.
“This started out as a reason to create a sort of weekend getaway for all of the good people in adult hockey,” Caputo said, “But we learned quickly that many people in the business community feel strongly about these issues.”
Each November, Movember encourages men worldwide to grow a moustache in order to start a conversation about men’s health; specifically prostate and testicular cancer and suicide. Participants solicit donations via Movember’s website and to have encouraging talks with friends and loved ones about their own health. Since 2003, Movember has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world, aiming to transform the way health services reach and support men.
“We’re so grateful for the Moustache Classic and their dedication to changing the face of men’s health. We saw some fantastic moustaches and tremendous fundraising efforts – congrats to their team for being the highest fundraising team in the Hockey Fights Cancer Challenge,” said Greg Oliva, Movember’s Community Development Manager. “It’s been an incredibly challenging year and now more than ever the work we do on behalf of men’s health is crucial.”
After the sudden death of his dear friend Richard Parker, a Forest Hills native beloved on the local music scene, Caputo set out to impact the beer league hockey community that he’s so passionate about. He formed an organizational team with beer league leaders Marc Weiss, of the Staten Islanders, and Rick Ziegler, of the New Haven Raiders (CT), and in 2019 the “Moustache Classic” was born. In 2019, the Moustache Classic played an “all-star style” exhibition game complete with customized jerseys and a championship trophy presentation.
This year, despite heavy COVID-19 restrictions, the group returned to Danbury, CT to host a small tournament and banquet. The player pool was expanded to four adult recreational teams that included some former professional players, such as Doug “The Thug” Smith, who is the inspiration for the popular “Goon” series of hockey movies starring Sean William Scott.
In November, city council member Robert Holden (of the 30th district) presented Caputo with a certificate of special recognition for “thousands raised during a charity event for men’s cancer and suicide prevention.” Caputo says that distinction shows how far the group has come in their short existence.
“In our first year we raised a little less than $7,000 but everyone who got involved really bought into the concept and that sense of teamwork helped us this year to raise more money than any other hockey group participating in Movember, including every single NHL team,” Caputo said.
Champion Elevator, a full-service elevator maintenance, repair, violation removal, and testing company, has supported the Moustache Classic since its inception as the presenting partner. Champion’s Vice President Joseph Corrado said he encouraged Caputo to create the event for men’s cancer and suicide prevention that has raised nearly $30,000 since being established.
“Champion Elevator is proud to support the Moustache Classic and the values of teamwork and community that it represents,” Corrado said. “A lot of work goes into this event and we take pride in contributing to such an important group effort.”
In addition to support from Champion Elevator, several local businesses helped the Moustache Classic in their 2020 campaign.
Jamaica-based Zara Realty donates $500 to the Moustache Classic, as well as personal protective equipment for the players and volunteers. Mr. Michael Filacouris of Supplies & Services of Maspeth also donated $500. David Associates, a property management firm in Forest Hills, donated $300. BQE Media provided printed banners and other signs. Rooftop2, a sports media production company based in Woodside, supplied the use of experiential marketing equipment. BodyArmor sports drink, a company with deep roots in Queens, donated 100 beverages to the event. Caputo said that the Moustache Classic group received donations from businesses from as far away as Albany, NY and Pittsburgh, PA.
Joseph Franquinhia, owner of Crest Hardware in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and co-owner of NYC Footy, an adult soccer league operating city-wide, allowed Caputo the use of his famous family-owned store’s delivery van to transport uniforms, signage and other materials to Connecticut. Franquinha even donated his time to help run the scoreboard during the tournament.
“You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been directly or indirectly affected by cancer. What is hard to find is someone with more dedication to the cause than Matt Caputo,” Franquinha, a Ridgewood resident, said. “ We were honored to donate and to volunteer time to such a fun and worthy event.”
With Movember 2020 complete, and the Moustache Classic ahead of at least seven NHL teams in the final fundraising standings, the group feels a sense of accomplishment.
“The business community saw that our players, volunteers, donors and all of our participants were really passionate about raising awareness for these important issues and that made them want to get involved,” Caputo said, “It’s these kinds of partnerships that have fostered our growth.”