To the casual observer, when the Wilton High School Boys Hockey team faced the combined team of Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe last Thursday, Feb. 21, it may have looked like a decent game was shaping up, as both teams took to the ice with similar records. But, to those in the know, this game was something special.
Former Fairfield goalie Charlie Capalbo, now 2o, was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma T-cell cancer as a high school senior in March of 2017. After a lengthy battle and treatment, Charlie was considered in remission until this past October, when doctors found a second type of cancer–a rare form of leukemia–in his spinal fluid. Since October, he’s been staying at Dana Farber in Boston, where he underwent a bone marrow treatment earlier this month.
Capalbo’s younger brother Will, is also a goalie, and is a senior on the Fairfield team. He ended his final high school season early in order to donate the bone marrow his older brother so desperately needed.
By all accounts, the hockey community is small and close-knit. Players who grew up across Fairfield County playing with each other at Ridgefield, Darien, and SoNo ice rinks, often enjoy friendly rivalries when they meet up again playing for different high schools.
“Since I grew up playing for Darien Youth Hockey, I have friends from New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, and Greenwich now. It’s so great to see them all wearing different uniforms with different numbers in high school,” says WhS sophomore varsity player Jackson Kelly. “Sure, the competitive part is always there, but I am actually always happy when I see one of them make a solid play or better yet, even score. All players on that ice are instantly connected because of our shared history and experiences.”
And so, in the truest sense of community, when the Wilton Boys Hockey Warriors learned of the latest in the Capalbo family’s journey, they of course put their heads together on how to best show their support. They came up with something very symbolic and perfect in the hockey world.
Players added hockey tape in red–Fairfield’s color–to their hockey socks. The Wilton players’ parents showed their support as well, wearing Charlie Capalbo’s number 30 on their sleeves.
After the game, one of the rink employees came up to Wilton coach John Miserendino and assistant coach Mark Mangino to commend the team and parents for the support they showed the Capalbo family. He admitted to tearing up when he walked in and saw the red tape and stickers, and added that no other team has similarly rallied around the Fairfield team.
“While Mark and I would love for our kids to turn out to be excellent hockey players, as far as we’re concerned, it’s far more important that they end up as excellent human beings,” said Miserendino, who’s in his third season as head coach of the team. “I cannot express how proud I am to have somebody come up to us and complement our boys and parents in such a way. I think the message we sent to our boys by doing this is far more valuable than any ‘chalk talk’ we could give them.”
Reinforcing Miserendino’s sentiment was Kelly’s mom, Jackie, who shared her thoughts about the evening, “So powerful and just more proof that the best portion of life is usually the small, little nameless acts of kindness that all people need.”