Love and life are deep, maybe as his skies are wide. — Rush “Tom Sawyer”
Editor’s note: This story about a man well-known for his positive influence on hockey and from my hometown of Marlboro, Mass., appears here in BedrockSportsHawaii.com, but it is also going to be the debut article today for sister website, BedrockSportsMarlboro.com.
If Wes Tuttle is ever inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame (now, there’s an idea!!!), it would be as a “builder” of the sport.
Tuttle, who died in September at age 62, spent 26 years as the New England Sports Center’s general manager. He did so much in growing the sport of hockey in his role at the multi-rink facility since its opening in 1994.
The rink sits at the crossroads of Massachusetts and New England hockey, a central place for gatherings of the sport, and Tuttle was central to its success.
He was so popular and loved the sport so much, Tuttle’s family held calling hours and his private funeral at the rink.
“That was his church,” Bobby Butler — a former Marlboro High and University of New Hampshire star who made it into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators — told the Milford Daily News’ Bill Doyle about Tuttle in a Sept. 21 story.
In that same article, Marlboro Mayor Arthur Vigeant — another friend of Tuttle’s growing up — told Doyle: “He was at the rink all the time. … That’s what he worked for and that’s what he lived for.”
Mark Chatalian, a Marlboro schools classmate of Tuttle’s in the 1970s, recalled the warm greetings he would always get from his friend whenever he went to the NESC.
“Wes and I graduated the same year and I knew him since grammar school,” Chatalian messaged Bedrock Sports Marlboro. “To me he was always big in stature and I realized as we grew up he was just as big in character. I remember him working at Navin Rink and remember when he was named GM at the NE Sports Center. What a perfect job for him! I didn’t play organized hockey, but I know he would have been a great teammate. He always greeted me with a smile, and a huge handshake … a feeling like you get from a sincere friend. I was so impressed one day when I paid a visit to him at NESC quite a few years ago. He began with that smile and burly voice and introduced me to his wife Mary Jo … something he did every time I saw them. The schedule board was full and I can remember asking, ‘How do you do it?’ He meant a lot to Marlboro hockey, but it goes further than that. He touched so many lives of all age groups and genders of hockey players, coaches and parents. Hockey will always be there, but just a little different without him.”
Fortunately, for Chatalian, he knows who Mary Jo is by now, but, he said, he’ll still miss Tuttle’s mandatory introduction every time they saw each other.
Long author’s note: The first time I saw Wes Tuttle was a youth baseball game I was playing in. Wes was 12 at the time and he and his younger twin brothers, Andy and Jimmy, were on a team sponsored by NuSystem (a laundry business on Marlboro’s Main St. at the time), and their dad was the coach. Green was their team color. I was 10 and on a team sponsored by Lincoln Mattress (later called Lincoln Furniture). Our team color was maroon.
In addition, I played high school hockey with Andy, when Wes worked at Navin Arena. I also recall playing youth hockey against Jimmy in later years and graduated from MHS with both twins.
Within the last year, when a family from Hawaii (where I live now) was looking for a mainland Midget AAA team for their son to join, I gave them Wes’ number at NESC and I told Wes on Facebook in February that they would be calling.
Wes was glad to help, providing his contact information and writing back to me on Facebook with this line: “I would be glad to help them. Hope all is well with you and let me know what I can do to help.”
And there’s no question that Tuttle had a true love for Marlboro.
When I wrote to him on Facebook about that memory of the Nu System vs. Lincoln Mattress game from 1970 (“gulp, 50 years ago,” I notated) he responded like anyone who knew him would expect:
“Wow. That was like yesterday. We were so lucky to grow up in Marlboro. So many good people and fond memories!”
Judging by the many comments on social media about how Wes touched people’s lives, that offer of help was basically Tuttle’s calling card. Bringing the hockey players in and making sure their time was as bright as possible.
According to the MetroWest Daily News’ Jeff Malachowski, citing data supplied by the New England Sports Center, the 10-rink facility for hockey and figure skating “helps to bring in between $15 million and $25 million annually in hotel room sales, meals and other business to the city and region.”
Tuttle was also a part of Marlboro High’s biggest hockey moment — as an assistant for head coach John Butler when the Panthers, led by Butler’s son Bobby, won the Division 3 state championship in 2005.
Wes Tuttle, a builder of hockey and hockey players, was a great example of what hockey coaches and rink managers can do for the sport if they try. And Marlboro was lucky to have him.
Thousands of kids were made to feel welcome at NESC in Tuttle’s years there. And to illustrate his outlook in simple fashion, here’s a quote from Tuttle in that same MetroWest Daily News article: “The kids see it, get exposed to it and say what a good thing to try.”