Nov. 7, 2013
When junior forward Andrew Sinelli of the Michigan ice hockey team grows out his moustache this month, it will serve as a tribute to a childhood friend from his midget hockey days with the Honeybaked Hockey Club.
Kurt Scipione and Sinelli played youth hockey together for seven years and became close friends, sharing the special bond of teammates growing up with each other. Both were talented young hockey players, destined to play on high-level junior and college hockey teams.
"Hockey friendships are a lot closer than regular friendships," Sinelli said. "A lot of people don't know that."
Scipione, from Rochester, Mich., was a talented defenseman in the midst of his sophomore year at Stoney Creek High School when he was diagnosed with rhabomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the connective tissues that is slightly more common among teenage males.
For 20 months, Scipione battled the disease while friends and family, including Sinelli rallied around him.
"He fought it for nearly two years and passed away when he was 18." Sinelli said. "Seeing him go through that was very difficult and life changing. It gave me a sense that we're not all invincible and to live every day to the fullest."
As Sinelli continued on with his hockey career, playing junior hockey in Youngstown, Ohio, and Dubuque, Iowa, and eventually returning to Michigan as his college choice, he remained close with the Scipione family.
"We have a really good relationship, and I know I can always talk to them about anything," Sinelli said. "That's the way best friends' parents should be, and we became closer after Kurt was diagnosed."
In 2011, the winner of the annual game between Stoney Creek and Rochester United High School was awarded the first annual Kurt Scipione City Championship Cup. Sinelli also wanted to honor the memory of a friend with "an incredible personality."
He organized the inaugural Scipione Scramble this past August at The Captains Club golf course in Grand Blanc, Mich. Proceeds benefited The Rainbow Connection -- a charity that allows Michigan kids suffering life threatening illnesses to fulfill dreams with their families. The golf tournament raised nearly $6,500 for the charity and was donated to a young man named Eric battling aplastic anemia, allowing him and his family to travel to Hawaii.
"We thought the golf tournament was going to be one weekend, but now it will be a regular event as part of the Rainbow Connection," Sinelli said. "If we can just put a smile on their face, like Eric's, for a day, or a week, we can make a difference in someone's life."
This month, Sinelli will continue to honor his childhood best friend, Kurt Scipione, as he grows out his moustache for the Michigan Moustaches for Men's Health Initiative. In his second game of the season on Nov. 2 against Michigan Tech, Sinelli recorded the primary assist on Justin Selman's game-winning third period goal. Sinelli was the first one to greet Selman behind the net, jumping into the arms of his teammate.
"It makes you realize, being at Michigan and playing at Yost, we're so fortunate to be here and the opportunities that we have, especially that I have," Sinelli said. "I know that he would have absolutely loved to be in the position that we're in."