Akiel Fogoe, 17, has been a goalie since his youth hockey coach told him to put pads on and get in front of the net one year ago. The Bayonne student was set to attend hockey camp on Monday July 27th until his family lost everything in a fire on July 11th that severely damaged their apartment complex. After word reached CCM and the New Jersey Devils, the organizations came together to give Fogoe an amazing surprise.
Arriving at Prudential Center on a sunny and warm Friday afternoon, Fogoe believed he was receiving a set of equipment provided through donations. Instead, the young goalie got a tour of the Devils locker room by head coach John Hynes, a set of brand new CCM hockey equipment and two special jerseys. In addition to a New Jersey Devils sweater with his name and number on it—30, like Martin Brodeur— Fogoe received a Cory Schneider jersey signed by the goaltender. Fogoe will also receive specialized, custom-made gear early next week.
Part of the fun as a goalie, Fogoe said, is the pressure. If he were to play another position, Fogoe added, it would be as a defenseman. For Fogoe, the highlight is shutting down his opponent and taking away goals. As an added bonus, Fogoe met Devils radio play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin, who regaled Fogoe with a story about how Martin Brodeur first became a goalie.
When Fogoe reached the locker room and saw the new gear, he was jubilant. “I was very excited and surprised. I didn’t think [the New Jersey Devils] would have done that, but yes, you did.” After talking with Coach Hynes, Fogoe donned his new gear and got on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion, where NJ Devil and AmeriHealth Pavilion staff helped Fogoe break in the pads, fielding shots on net.
“Just to see someone like [Akiel] light up, and you see how much it meant to him and his family, it was really special,” said Coach Hynes.
While the gear was a little stiff, Fogoe said it felt good to get on the ice. Fogoe’s father, Haldane Fogoe, commented that after going through the fire, it meant a lot to see people looking out for him. With the gear, Fogoe explained he’ll be able to play for the varsity team at Bayonne High School.
One of Fogoe’s mentors, Tom Fogu, a Bayonne resident who runs goalie clinics in the area, was on hand throughout the afternoon. Fogu had helped organize an equipment drive after talking with Haldane about whether Akiel still wanted to go to camp. Believing it would be a great way to keep the high school student occupied after dealing with the fire, Fogu reached out and collected equipment before CCM and the New Jersey Devils stepped in to help out.
Fogoe’s original gear may have burned away in a fire, but soon he’ll be back on the cool ice, standing between the pipes, feeding on the fun and pressure of being a goalie.