In This Rink, I Thee Wed
LOWELL -- Mary Kaplan and Michael Montanye have long been big hockey fans, especially when it comes to rooting for the UMass Lowell River Hawks.
The season ticket holders go to nearly every home and away game, often following the team across the country -- and even as far as Europe.
So when the two Lowellians were looking to marry, they looked no further than the Tsongas Center.
“It’s our favorite place,” Kaplan said.
Surrounded by family and friends, all wearing hockey jerseys, she and Montanye exchanged their vows just ahead of Saturday’s game against the University of Denver Pioneers.
Kaplan’s love of hockey goes back to her early childhood in New York, when she was rooting for the Rangers. She became a Boston Bruins fan upon moving to New England, having lived in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In middle and high school, she’d often go see the Boston College Eagles play when her mother was working police details at games.
Kaplan, 44, and Montanye, 37, originally of St. Albans, Vermont, first met in April 2013, as volunteers at Anime Boston, an annual Japanese animation convention. The two bonded over hockey and soon their friendship blossomed into much more.
Kaplan, who earned her master’s degree in environmental science at UMass Lowell in 2003, had already been going to River Hawks games for years, usually with her mom. Around the time Kaplan and Montanye started dating, her mom had been sick, so Montanye used her tickets, and later got his own.
Montanye said going to see the games got him interested in playing the sport. For the last two years, he’s been playing with MA Hockey League and StinkySocks Hockey recreational leagues.
Kaplan said the River Hawks have given her a reason to travel to a number of places, including Colorado, Minnesota and Alaska. Last winter, she and Montanye followed the team to Arizona, “an excuse to go someplace warm for a few days,” she said.
But the most memorable trip was to Northern Ireland in late 2015, when the River Hawks played in -- and won -- the first Friendship Four tournament in Belfast.
“It was an amazing trip,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan and Montanye parlayed the tournament into an eight-day vacation around Northern Ireland and Ireland, including a tour of Game of Thrones filming locations and visits to Dublin and Blarney Castle.
“I joked that if I had gone to Ireland had not gone to Blarney Castle, I’d be disowned,” Montanye said with a laugh, noting his mother is descended from the McCarthy Clan that built the castle.
When they were planning their wedding, they felt lucky there was a game the weekend after Christmas, when much of their family and friends were already visiting the area or otherwise able to attend. Kaplan said she was surprised when arena staff told them theirs was the first wedding ever held at the Tsongas.
They wrote the ceremony themselves and their roommate, Andyi Richter, obtained a one-day officiant license to marry them.
“It was important to us that she was involved,” Kaplan said.
Even if they hadn’t been married at a hockey game, “we probably would have done the jerseys no matter what,” Montanye said.
The River Hawks ended up losing 4-1 Saturday, “but we didn’t let that deter our good time,” Kaplan said.
“Other than that, it was perfect,” Montanye said.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.