CCHL Rivals Unite Once Again During the Holidays for Toy Drive

By Ross Forman – The rivalry between Benet Academy and Providence Catholic is fierce and competitive, to put it mildly, especially in recent years, with the teams tied in their six Kennedy Cup Finals showdowns for the prestigious bragging rights in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League.

“Both sides really don’t like each other, but that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s always a great atmosphere and an amazing feeling beating them, especially in the Kennedy Cup,” said Anthony Klos, a 3-year Benet varsity defenseman whose career highlight was scoring the game-winning goal in the deciding game of the 2020 Kennedy Cup Finals, which led to him earning the playoff MVP trophy.

The Benet/Providence games are always circled on the calendar, regardless which team you play for, or which side you support. “Every game is memorable,” said Benet goalie Liam Casto.

These on-ice foes have put their feelings aside every December since 2012 – to support Toys for Tots, the popular program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts during this holiday season.

Perhaps this year’s Benet/Providence toy drive was more meaningful, more emotion-filled than ever before. Both teams and the schools collected toys, and they were delivered to the USMC on Saturday, Dec. 12 – in the parking lot of a local rink, fittingly.

More than 20 bins of toys were collected.

“Several years ago, we were fortunate to have Benet Academy ask us to participate in their Toys for Tots event (at a time when) we were looking for a way for our student-athletes to get more involved in community service,” said Providence head coach Nick Iaciancio. “Although our players and families make great sacrifices to play hockey at a Catholic school, we remind them that there are people their age (who) are less fortunate.  This is a time where they can help and contribute.

“This event is also what makes our league great. Players from two rival schools come together for a great cause to contribute to the community.”

Benet’s Casto added that the toy drive “truly shows how strong the bond is in the hockey community. Despite all the unexpected events in 2020, our programs made it happen.”

Captains from both teams and others met to deliver this year’s toys.

No checking this time between Benet and Providence, just cheers.

“It’s great to give back to those who are less fortunate, especially (during) the pandemic,” Klos said. “Spreading love and happiness during the holiday season is extremely important and it’s great to be able to do it as a community.

“It’s really important to me and I’m glad that the club was able to organize the event. It’s such a great cause and will put many smiles on kids’ faces. To be able to put the rivalry aside and come together for Toys for Tots is always special.”

Casto added: “The toy drive was a great opportunity to take a step back from our rivalry and look at the bigger picture. We were able to set our grudges aside and come together to support a great cause. We actually ran out of boxes to fill and had to go get more. We wound up filling those boxes as well.”

Let us know if your team has participated in a community service project this Holiday Season. We’d love to share your pictures on our social media sites. Send your photos with a brief caption to communications@ahai2.org.


Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.



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