On Saturday, March 16, the Devils hosted the first-ever Newark Public Schools Floor Hockey Championship in conjunction with Hockey in New Jersey and Newark Board of Education.
Over the course of the school year, the Devils Grassroots and Community Investment Team, Devils alumni, Devils Mascot NJ Devil, Hockey in New Jersey, Metropolitan Riveters Captain Shelly Picard and Newark East Side High School Hockey Players visited each of the participating schools where they introduced the floor hockey program. The program focused on introducing the kids to the sport of hockey while teaching them the importance of teamwork and healthy habits.
This past Saturday, the students from Abington, Ann Street, Harriet Tubman, Lincoln, Ridge Street, and Wilson Avenue visited Prudential Center where they faced off for the first-ever championship on the main concourse. The six teams played fifteen-minute games in a round robin tournament to determine the top two teams. In the final game of the day, Wilson Avenue and Ridge Street School faced off for the championship title. Ridge Street School came out on top in a 5-2 victory to be named the first-ever Newark Public Schools Floor Hockey Champions.
"We are always looking for ways to offer our students an opportunity to play niche sports," Special Assistant, Office of Athletics, Health, & Physical Education for Newark Public Schools & Co-Founder of Hockey in NJ Keith Veltre said. "The Newark Public Schools, Office of Athletics & Extended Learning Time, were able to offer six elementary schools their own street hockey teams through our partnership with Hockey In NJ, the National Hockey League, and the New Jersey Devils. What was important was that we all agreed that we did not just want a clinic, but an opportunity for our students to practice, be part of a team, and then represent their schools in a one-day playoff and championship. The turnout was phenomenal, there were many smiles, some tears, but in the end, I feel as though we created an event our students will be excited to compete in for years to come. I have already received calls from other schools wanting their own team for next year and the hope is that we go from six to twelve teams."
Devils alumni such as Bruce Driver, Grant Marshall, Bryce Salvador, and Colin White had been a part of the different events at the school and took part in a ceremonial puck drop along with NJ Devil prior to the games on Saturday.
"Having the opportunity to visit many of the Newark Public Schools and getting to know the kids and teaching them some of the skills was enjoyable," Driver explained. "To then see their faces light up after coming up the escalators at Prudential Center and seeing the rinks they were about to play in was priceless. All the games were competitive, and you could see the improvement with each one played. The Championship game between Ridge Street and Wilson School was played with heart but also respect for each other. Ridge Street School students, parents and coaches were beaming when the Championship trophy was awarded!"
At the conclusion of the event, each team was able to keep their school's jersey and received a participant medal to commemorate the event. The championship team was also awarded a trophy after the game.
"When watching games, the passion and energy of the kids as well as their parents was evident," COO/Co-Founder of Hockey in New Jersey Dennis Ruppe said. "Because of this and amazing partnerships with the Newark Public Schools, New Jersey Devils and National Hockey League we extremely excited about the opportunities and doors that will be opened in the future."
"Watching my kids getting to compete and having a great time was an absolute honor to be a part of," head coach of Ridge Street School Fernando Monero said about the program. "This is the type of program that really leaves an impression on students as well as teachers. Thank you to the New Jersey Devils and Hockey in New Jersey for all of their support."
"It was so much fun to go up against students from other schools" sixth grader Andrew said from the Ridge Street School team. "This might be a sport I will play in the future."
Many of the students who participated in the program will be lacing up the skates for the first time this spring with Hockey in New Jersey Ice Hockey program. They will continue to learn about the sport they've grown to know and love.
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