BOSTON -- Last Sunday, Groton-Dunstable captains Connor Maguire, Justin Cole, Josh Rabbitt and the rest of the Crusaders hockey team traded in their skates for a pair of walking sneakers.
The three captains organized a team of 25 people to participate in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness walk held in Boston.
Maguire and Cole took on the goal after they learned that Jan Rowley, the wife of y heir hockey coach, Phil Rowley, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of last hockey season.
Seeing the impact it had on Rowley and his family, the boys felt they had to do something to help their much-admired first-year head coach. At first, the team wore pink ties and laces on their skates, but three weeks ago, Maguire came up with the idea to do something more.
"I saw it (the walk) was happening on the Internet and I contacted my other two captains, Josh (Rabbitt) and Justin," Maguire said. "We all decided that it would be a nice team thing for everyone to get together and that it would be good to support Mr. and Mrs. Rowley's family.
"We did this not only to bring the team together as we go into the season but also to support him, and let him know that we are behind him and his family in their fight."
The team, Rowley's Crusaders, sported black long-sleeve shirts with the Groton-Dunstable logo and the team name emblazoned across the chest. A unique aspect of the shirts was how the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon was incorporated into the zero of the year on the sleeve.
"My mom helped me out a little bit on those," Maguire said. "We wanted to call it Rowley's Crusaders because it was a team thing. We thought it would be only fitting to name it after the Rowleys. That's who we were walking for. We had the Crusaders' shield with the hockey sticks on the front."
All of the returning players from last year's Central Mass. Div. 3 Finalist team walked on Sunday.
"It was an awesome day," Maguire said. "It was an awesome event. There were a lot of people there and it was great to be a part of. I think everyone enjoyed it."
For coach Rowley, he was taken back by the level of maturity his team has displayed since he notified them of his wife's fight.
"About three weeks ago, they sent me an e-mail and said they had decided to do the 'strides for cancer,'" Rowley said. "The kids asked if my wife would mind them waking for her. So I asked my wife and she was very embarrassed. She was grateful and humbled that they would do that."
Maguire, along with his teammates, raised over $1,600 in a span of just three weeks for breast cancer awareness. However, Rowley's Crusaders are aiming to raise the bar next year.
"I think everyone will want to continue it," Maguire said of the walk. "Hopefully, the underclassmen will pick it up. It would be a thing that would sort of feed down as long as coach is still coaching.
"Hopefully, we can continue it and make it even bigger. At the walk, we saw Catholic Memorial brought over 200 kids and raised over $43,000. So we saw that and kind of made that our goal for next year to work our way up."
When Rowley's Crusaders crossed the finish line there was no trophy to raise, but there was a sense of accomplishment. Especially for coach Rowley and his wife, Jan.
"My wife is a survivor now," Rowley said. "She is doing very, very well."