The Hockey in Newark camp at AmeriHealth Pavilion is helping to make the sport more accessible in New Jersey. (Photo: New Jersey Devils)
PHOTO GALLERY: HOCKEY IN NEWARK CAMP
It may be summer, but for some, August is just another month to start getting ready for hockey season. Over the course of three days this week, the New Jersey Devils gave a group of Newark kids that chance during the Hockey in Newark 2015 Summer Camp at Prudential Center’s AmeriHealth Pavilion.
The Devils and AmeriHealth Pavilion host a number of camps throughout the summer for adults and children of all ages, but this week’s clinic was special because it benefitted underprivileged kids who might not otherwise be able to participate in summer hockey.
They were expecting us to play something like soccer or volleyball…we ended up falling in love with this sport. - Gabriel Dos Santos
On Wednesday, about 30 kids from the Hockey in Newark program finished up the three-day camp with skills and scrimmages led by Prudential Center and Devils volunteers. Hockey in Newark, the 13-year-old creation of Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe that was initially formed as a feeder team for Newark’s East Side High School, is one of the leading academic and hockey development programs in the region and a year-round partner of the Devils. The camp marked the first time the two organizations hosted a camp dedicated to Hockey in Newark kids.
“The hockey population is now growing in Newark, and the more opportunities these kids can get to be on the ice, is a great thing,” Ruppe said. “These kids truly enjoy being out here.”
Gabriel and David Dos Santos, cousins in the program, first got involved in hockey when a friend of theirs introduced them to the sport. “We started coming every Saturday,” David said, “we keep practicing every day to get better and better.”
Gabriel and David work together as linemates on defense, feeding off their natural chemistry to help their team.
“We were basically born together…when it comes to hockey, we have that connection,” Gabriel said. As Gabriel described his ability to know where David is, David added that it was fun to play with someone he’s always known.
Coming from Brazil, Gabriel explained his parents never expected him to play hockey. “They were expecting us to play something like soccer or volleyball…we ended up falling in love with this sport.”
On the camp’s final day, which included an hour on the ice, a lesson on nutrition and an hour of off-ice drills, the participants got a special treat when former Devil Bruce Driver and mascot NJ Devil joined the fun.
As he signed jerseys for kids after skating, Driver, who helped the Devils win the 1995 Stanley Cup, said he thought the camp was great. “It’s set up for the kids to really work on their game.” Driver added that now that August is here, it’s time for the kids to start getting prepared for the season. “It’s good for the kids to take a little break from the game they play all winter long, but now’s the time…it’s great to get them back on the ice.”
Seeing Driver out on the ice with them was inspirational for the Dos Santos cousins.
“He told us who he was, and all we had to do was look up (at the banners),” David said, referring to the banners hanging in AmeriHealth Pavilion celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the 1995 Stanley Cup Championship.