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Cultural Events

Newtown PD Team Ready To Defend Title At 4th Annual Bender Classic For Special Olympics CT



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The Newtown Police and UConn Police will lace up skates again for the 4th annual Bender Classic to benefit Special Olympics CT on Saturday, January 20. The officers will face off against each other during the intermissions at the annual game between the Newtown/New Fairfield Nighthawks and E.O. Smith/Tolland Bucks at Toscano Arena on the UConn Storrs Campus at 5:25 pm.

The event gets its name from the hockey slang term Bender, which is someone who doesn’t skate very well. The officers participating are either new to hockey, or haven’t been on ice in a decade or more.

Newtown PD is heading into the event as the defending champion, but UConn is putting up a tough roster of officers to try to bring the trophy to Storrs.

The event started in 2020 when Newtown PD Sgt William Chapman and Newtown High School Athletic Director Matt Memoli learned to ice skate because their kids were becoming interested in hockey. As lifelong supporters of Special Olympics and Unified Sports programs, the two decided to use the experience to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics. The men admired the bold spirit of local Special Olympics and Unified Sports Athletes who are constantly displaying bravery in the course of trying new things and challenging themselves.

Since 2020 the event has grown into an inter-agency rivalry between Newtown PD and UConn PD, who presides over the home ice rink of the E.O. Smith/Tolland varsity hockey program in Storrs.

So far this year, over $11,700 has been raised heading into the event, making this the most successful year yet.

Admission to the game will be free, with a suggested donation to Special Olympics CT. There will also be a chance to win a team-signed jersey, generously donated by the Boston Bruins, which should put the event well on the way to the $20,000 fundraising goal.

In addition to Chapman, Newtown participants in the 2024 Bender Classic will include Officer Matt Hayes, Officer Pete Wlasuk, and Officer Barry Hyvarinen. UConn PD’s roster will include Captain Doug Gamache, Sergeant Justin Cheney, Officer Dean Vertefeuille, Officer Rene Rivera, and Officer Erica Goulet.

To learn more or make donations visit benderclassichockey.com.

The Newtown PD Bender Classic team, in the foreground, and the Newtown-New Fairfield Nighthawks line up on the ice during the national anthem ahead of last year’s games in Storrs.
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