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Devils host 2009 NJSIAA High School Ice Hockey Luncheon

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Devils' alumnus Bruce Driver emceed Thursday's luncheon at Prudential Center. – The Devils hosted their annual high school hockey luncheon Thursday at Prudential Center, bringing together the six teams that will do battle in Saturday’s New Jersey Devils/NJSIAA HIgh School Ice Hockey Championships presented by Chase.

The 2008-09 season marks the 50th anniversary of high school hockey in the Garden State, and the 12th in which the Devils have given young athletes the chance to compete on the same ice as Jersey’s Team.

Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello attended the event and addressed the players.

“This is a great time for each and every one of you,” Lamoriello said. “This is something you’re all going to look back on no matter how old you get.”

New Jersey high school ice hockey has nearly doubled in size from 80 programs to 158 since the Devils began hosting the NJSIAA championships in 1997. It’s a sure sign that the Devils’ involvement has succeeded in growing the game locally.

“It’s motivation to start each season. That’s what every player wants to do is, 'Get to the Rock,” said Kinnelon head coach Jeffrey Myrhen.

“One just has to look around the room at all the jerseys that are here to see how committed the Devils are to interscholastic sports, especially ice hockey,” NJSIAA Executive Director Steven Timko said. 

All of last year’s winners — Delbarton, Kinnelon and Ridge – have returned to defend their 2008 titles. Delbarton (Non-Public) is looking for its third straight crown, while Randolph (Public "A") hopes to claim the throne for the third time in four seasons, and fourth time since 2003. Christian Brothers Academy (Non-Public) won it all in 2005.

This year, Kinnelon faces Ramsey in the Public “B” title match at 1 p.m., followed by Randolph and Ridge in the Public “A” final at 3 p.m. Delbarton and Christian Brothers Academy will collide in the Non-Public final at 5 p.m.

From perennial powers like Delbarton to a first-timer like Ramsey, Lamoriello observed that there’s no such thing as a favorite when it comes to a championship matchup.

“I can remember going into the ‘95 Stanley Cup Finals. From everything that we read and heard, we never even should have gone to Detroit,” Lamoriello said. “There was something that happened with that team; they had a belief and a trust in each other so strong that nothing was going to get in the way. We were not the more talented team; we did not have the better individual players, but we turned out to be the better team.”

Lamoriello, who has guided the Devils to three Stanley Cups, concluded by offering some final words of encouragement to Saturday’s competitors.

“There’s no greater feeling you can have, no matter who wins or loses, than leaving that room knowing you did every single thing you could do to have success,” Lamoriello said. “It doesn’t start on gamenight. It starts today.”
Also attending Thursday were Devils' Chairman/Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek and Co-Owner Michael Gilfillan. They were joined by elected officials from each school's region. ... Devils' alumni Bruce Driver, Ken Daneyko, Grant Marshall and Rob Skrlac also lent their support. ... Christian Brothers' defenseman Trevor VanRiemsdyk is the brother of James, who was drafted second overall by Philadelphia in 2007.
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