Family tradition spans generations

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 6, 2012

 Goalie Matt Cervone and Steve Maynard hold up the Maynard Cup in victory after their team defeated the younger players. At the far right is Chris Budzyn.

Goalie Matt Cervone and Steve Maynard hold up the Maynard Cup in victory after their team defeated the younger players. At the far right is Chris Budzyn.

Photo by David Schreiber


The fans were few, but passionate.

In the 10th annual Maynard Cup, there were bragging rights at stake as the visitors struggled to beat the home team, which had triumphed for seven of the last nine games.

But try as they might, experience triumphed once more over youth, and the Maynard Cup, a family tradition for a local family and their friends, was awarded once more to the “old timers,” who don’t mind the moniker much when it comes with a win.

Fought on The Gardens rink in Civic Arena, the Canal Hockey League (CHL) Maynard Cup was begun as a way to build on a family tradition that started on Lake St. Clair.

“My brother and I grew up in the Shores, and we played in the canal,” said Steve Maynard, 48. “I started it 10 years ago when my son was 8. It’s gotten tougher now that he’s 18 and now, likewise, with his cousins.”

The teams are divided into those under 20 years old and those over 20 — or the “old timers” versus the “young players.” There’s even a trophy with each year’s winner and score engraved on it, the CHL Cup. This year, a total of 22 players filled out the rosters for both teams.

“It’s usually a father-son pair up,” said Ellen Maynard, Steve Maynard’s wife. “All the old guys grew up playing hockey on the canals. We decided we needed a way to get everybody together and play.”

The teams now include extended family and the friends that grew up playing hockey with the Maynards on the canals of St. Clair Shores.

“It’s our family, but there’s also a hockey family we keep together,” said Ellen Maynard.

And because they can’t depend on the canal to freeze over each year, for the past 10 years, they have rented ice at Civic Arena, where the over-20 players are the home team and the under-20 boys are the visitors.

“It’s a riot,” said Steve Nemeckay of St. Clair Shores, who grew up playing hockey with the Maynard brothers. “When we started, the kids were so small, some of them (were) barely skating” and now several have played, or still do play, on travel hockey teams.

Karen Leja, Steve Maynard’s sister, still lives in St. Clair Shores, and at 10 years old her son, Andrew, was the youngest player on the ice Dec. 29. The skaters range up to 51 years old.

“He was not even born when they started,” said Leja. Her husband and daughter are in charge of the timer and scoreboard.

Civic Arena is a second home to her. “I grew up watching my brothers play here,” she said. “I was here almost every day.”

She said she treasures the tradition and always manages to save one vacation day at the end of the year to be used for the game so that she can see how her nephews have grown and visit with other relatives and friends that turn out for the game and the open skate that follows it.

Over the years, the younger players have won the game only twice — in 2004 and 2005 — but that doesn’t stop speculation as to when their youth and agility might foil the dads and uncles.

“The old men are getting older and slower,” Leja said. “I think the old ones will be hurting tomorrow.”

The younger players put up quite a fight this time around, tying the score at 5-all with less than four minutes left on the clock. But a minute later, the score was back up to 6-5 in the “old timers’” favor, winning them the game.

“We always lose,” said Steve Maynard’s 18-year-old son, Brent. “I think they get better every year.”

At the same time, though, Brent said he looks forward to the event each year.

“It’s nice to be able to see all my cousins,” he said.

“It’s a good reason to get everybody back in town,” said Maynard. He still has a home in the city but has been living in Ohio lately because of work.

Cousin John Mellon of Grosse Pointe Woods agreed.

“It’s a nice family get-together, reminds us what the holiday season is about,” he said.