The Rowlee family wasn't originally sure what to expect when Boston Bruins legend and local surfer Kenny Linseman proposed a charity hockey game in their daughter's memory, although it quickly became clear they scored a monumental partnership to aid them in a heartbreaking goal.
Linseman, a longtime friend of the Hampton family, proposed Buck and Meighan Rowlee assemble a team three years ago to face off against Bruins alumni during a charity exhibition for the Molly Fund, a nonprofit created in honor of Molly Rowlee, who succumbed to cancer at the age of five in 2009.
Meighan said she was "blown away" by the thousands of supporters during the first match in 2010, which is why she expects the 3rd annual "Surfers vs. Bruins Alumni" game to once again fill the Rinks at Exeter to standing-room-only capacity on Sunday, March 18.
"I was kind of in a fog [during the first year because of Molly's passing]," she said. "I just kind of showed up and was shocked. The intensity people came with was amazing. These events always amaze me because of how much support we have and what people are willing to do.
"The energy is just so great. We pack the place. The energy level is through the roof, and it's just so fun."
The 3rd annual event begins at 1 p.m. on March 18 and will feature Buck Rowlee and 29 other surfers and hockey nuts taking on a still-unconfirmed roster of Boston Bruins legends.
Linseman won't be able to attend due to a prior committment, although Rick "Nifty" Middleton is expected to play again. There may even be a Ray Bourque and/or Cam Neely sighting.
Surfers team registration fees and proceeds from ticket and 50/50 raffle sales will all benefit the Molly Fund, which helps offset the cost of cancer treatments for local children. Buck Rowlee said roughly 3,000 people turned out for last year's game at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center, and he expects a spirited crowd around that size this year for the return to the more intimate Rinks at Exeter.
There is no fundraising goal, as Buck said any amount of money for the cause easily makes the "hijinks"-filled event worth it.
That, and the chance to beat the Bruins, of course.
While the Bruins are undefeated so far against Seacoast-area surfers, Buck said his team looks to build off an inspiring and highly emotional goal that had the entire Whitt crowd on their feet last year.
Buck was awarded a penalty shot late in the final period, and had already decided to hide a puck in his glove so he could swat it into the net against Bruins goaltender Cleon Daskalakis during an over-the-top display of showmanship.
Things didn't start according to plan, though, as Daskalakis aggressively challenged Buck's attempt, so much so that current Bruins goalie Tim Thomas' style would look passive by comparison.
But, to Buck's own amazement, he was able to leap over the sliding netminder and drive unhindered to the open net, knocking the puck over the goal line as he began a celebration that took "15 minutes" and made the entire crowd forget about the Bruins' prowess.
"You wouldn't believe the number of people on their feet going crazy," Rowlee said laughing, adding that "they're still talking about that goal" in Beantown.
"The best part of it was when I went upstairs afterward to the area where the Bruins were signing autographs. I started to walk over to some of the players, and all of these little kids came flocking to me, wanting me to sign their autograph books because of the goal. It was unbelievable. That was the highlight of my day for me."
Buck also gets a similar feeling when reflecting on what the excitement, those thunderous cheers, mean in regard to his daughter.
The young and the young-at-heart stand shoulder-to-shoulder each year just to get a glimpse of the players, but are also simultaneously cognizant of the real reason they're there: the memory of a little girl that has captured the hearts of the entire area.
"It's unbelievable to see all the people in the stands, cheering and waving tons of Molly banners," he said. "It's amazing. It's a really spiritual day. Afterward I'm just so jacked up [because of those emotions]."