Riley Rink pays tribute to Monforte
MANCHESTER — Every time hockey teams from Burr and Burton Academy and Northshire Youth Hockey take the ice at home this winter, they'll have an extra player on their side.
A hunter green and gold circle with the initials HM now graces the Riley Rink ice at Northshire Civic Center. It's there in honor of Halley Monforte, who died last month after a long fight against brain cancer. It can be found on the spectator side of the rink, halfway between the red line and the blue line on the home side.
Her husband, Zachary Monforte, said that simple gesture of her initials on the ice is "absolutely special" and meaningful to him and his extended family.
"When my kids step in the rink and they're on the ice, they can just be close to their mother. It means a lot," he said.
Monforte played youth hockey at the rink for the Northshire Avalanche girls' club team and at Castleton University, and coached field hockey at Burr and Burton Academy, her alma mater, until her cancer diagnosis forced her to step down. She was also a teacher at Take Five Daycare, and the mother of three children with her husband.
"To go to that rink and see her initials are stamped there for the season, it's special. Besides her family, hockey was very important to her," Zachary Monforte said.
For Northshire Civic Center general manager Jon Larson, who painted the tribute last week as the Riley Rink ice sheet was installed, the decision to honor Monforte was easy.
"The reason I did this was simple. Although teams honor fallen owners, players etc. with either sewn on patches on their uniforms or stickers on their helmets, it is only seen for a very short time — whenever there is a close-up of the players," Larson said in an email to the Journal. "Also, in this sound-bite, iPhone, social media-crazed world, it seems as though we give thought to important or tragic events in life only until the next news cycle. By placing the HM logo in the ice, we all will be reminded of Halley's never-ending spirit and strength every time we visit the facility or go on the ice."
What's more, Larson and his wife, Lisa, were inspired by Monforte's fight against cancer.
"There were times Lisa and I would run into her when we were in a funk. After visiting her, we left feeling so much joy — and she was the one battling a brain tumor! That was Halley," Larson said. "We just wanted to keep the memory of Halley alive — especially at a place she loved so much and spent so much time at."
The reaction from the family was emotional and appreciative, Larson said. "I told them that's what we do. Halley was part of the rink family."
Zachary Monforte said Halley played hockey "since she was a little girl. She had skates on her feet at 2 or 3 years old."
"It's just everything she brought to this community for the 34 years she's been alive," he said. "To all the kids she ever taught how to skate and play hockey, all the games she played in that rink — it was just part of her life and a special thing. For me it's just an amazing thing."
Monforte said he is enormously thankful to the Northshire community for everything it provided for his wife and their family during her battle with brain cancer, and since her passing.
"This community is amazing. The support from when Halley was first diagnosed to now, just supporting my family, has been really spectacular. I'm forever grateful for that," he said.
And that was the kind of person she was, too, Monforte said. "She gave anything she had and didn't expect anything in return."
"My wife was an amazing woman," he added.
Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-490-6000.
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