One day every summer, about 8 to 12 sleep away camps gather in Shandaken, New York at Timber Lake Camp to compete in a roller hockey tournament where the participants range from 11 to 16 years old. The tournament was created in 1985, but wasn't actually played until 1987. Jay Jacobs, the director of Timber Lake Camp, originally came up with the idea and the tournament was named after Mike Gordon, the director of Camp Wah-Nee who unfortunately passed away in December of 1985.
A lot of people have asked me over the years what my favorite moment has been throughout my hockey career. When I tell them "a sleep away camp tournament,” they don't fully understand. They ask with disbelief: With an orange Mylec puck? The goalies don't have to wear skates?
So I’m here to answer what exactly makes the Gordon Cup so special.
The Gordon Cup is the most desirable trophy you can win at summer camp, the NCAA Tournament for kids who attend sleep away camp, with teenagers playing in front of their friends and family as well as several hundred attendees. It is incomparable.
Seeing the home team, Timber Lake, skate through the camp together was among the first times I was ever intimidated. I still remember my first shift in 2008, as a 12-year-old, just old enough to be on the team. Playing against Timber Lake in the Timber-Dome, was a summer camp version of playing on the road at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota. The only thing that made it more nerve racking was trying to impress all the Timber Lake girls that I had a crush on.
Our coach at the time, Brett Kotcher, sent me out to take a face-off against the two best players on Timber Lake, Ben Fisher and Scott Schwartz, who were three or four years older than me. I was more nervous looking up at those two than I was playing against Boston University, with the likes of Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller, at Fenway Park. I don't think I've ever been on the verge of shitting my pants more than when I heard the chants in the Timber-Dome for the first time.
From that moment on, the Gordon Cup was an obsession, the only thing I cared about winning, and I wasn’t alone. It was one of the most competitive environments I've ever been apart of and some of the most fun I've ever had playing the game of hockey. Some teammates and foes who went on to play at very highly competitive levels of hockey shared with me a few of their thoughts about what the Gordon Cup meant to them:
Timber Lake Camp
Gordon Cup Champion 2009, 2011:
"It was the reason I went back to camp every year. Looking back, it was some of the most fun I've ever had playing hockey."
Gordon Cup Champion 2010:
"Having experienced many unique things throughout my hockey career such as winning a gold medal for Team USA's under-17 team in Slovakia or playing Division I hockey for Brown University, this may sound crazy, but my favorite and most memorable hockey moment came when me and 14 of my best friends won an unknown roller hockey tournament in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. To this day I tell that story and show the video highlights to my friends who never knew something like that even existed. It will forever bond me to Camp Equinunk."
Tyler Hill Camp
Gordon Cup 2008-2012:
"It's probably hard for an outsider to believe, but the intensity and atmosphere of the tournament is indescribable. Being the first and only girl on the team gave me a group of protective brothers that I'll never forget. It became the legacy that I left at Tyler Hill."
This tournament isn't just about the kids competing. Jacobs added to the atmosphere by inviting the parents from Timber Lake and other camps who have kids competing to come up for the day and spectate. Parents don't get many chances to watch their children participate in intercamp activities and being able to experience these special moments goes a very long way. The Gordon Cup was my parents favorite day of the entire year. They loved bringing up the cooler and making T-shirts for all of the parents and players to wear. Some may even argue that the parents were more intense than the kids actually competing.
As teenagers this type of intensity from our parents could be embarrassing but on this day we loved how much our parents got into it.
Just look at them.
Ten years ago, I won the Gordon Cup for the first and only time with Camp Equinunk. Even with a decade having passed, that moment is just as powerful for me today, as a 24 year old who just finished his hockey career, as it was back then when I was 14. The game of hockey has given me so many incredible opportunities and has introduced to me an amazing amount of people, but my most special memory remains that summer day at Timber Lake Camp in 2010 and the celebrations that carried on the rest of the summer.
Going back to our camp, Equinunk, and getting to celebrate with the entire camp is the closest thing that most of us will ever get to a Stanley Cup Parade. Lifting a trophy in front of hundreds of people while they cheer your name is a feeling that everyone deserves to feel once in their life, regardless of the setting. To this day, when I see friends from the small world of sleepaway camp, all conversations lead to Gordon Cup memories.
The Gordon Cup is a big part of the legacy that I left in my decade at Camp Equinunk. Going back up nearly every summer, I get the privilege to speak to current campers about their experiences and how much they look forward to it every year. I am thankful to Timber Lake Camp and Jay Jacobs for making this tournament that became a cherished memory a reality. I cannot wait to watch my own children compete one day and hope that they bring back the cup.
Red Plaque Forever.
Thank you so much to David Katz, Michelle Roberts and Jeffrey Zwecker for the awesome photos and videos.
Here is the full 2010 Gordon Cup Video: