|Former Devils Bruce Driver and Ken Daneyko, along with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Councilman Augusto Amador, Hockey In Newark Coaches Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe, and others take part in the Grand Reopening festivities at the Ironbound Recreation Center in Newark (Photo/Anthony Smith).
The Hockey In Newark program has been a program that has grown immensely through the work of co-founders Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe. Over the past 10 years, the program has grown from just five children in 2003, to over 200 kids today. To accommodate the program’s evolution, the City of Newark took major strides to ensure that the children had a rink to play at.
The Ironbound Recreation Center in Newark reopened December 1st, a day that came with special feelings for everyone involved.
“It means everything,” Veltre says. “It means ten years of hard work in the community, in the city, and the Devils all coming together to help this sport finally have a home, an official home, and it means hockey has finally arrived and hockey is here to stay.”
Ruppe cannot reiterate enough how important it was to finally have this rink reopened.
“We’re excited to have it back again, the kids deserve it, they work hard, this is where they come every day after school,” Ruppe explains. “It’s good to have this back because not only do they get to play the sport they love here, but keeps them off the streets and gives them something to do with their energy, because they’ll find something to do with it, and this is something very positive for them.”
The New Jersey Devils have always been a strong supporter of youth hockey, and since their move to Newark in 2007, have supported the Hockey In Newark program. Devils’ Chairman and Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek is gratified by the support the Devils have been able to provide the program over the years.
“Keith and Dennis put a lot of time and effort into this program,” Vanderbeek says. “The success of Hockey In Newark is a testament to their hard work, and we’re proud to support them.”
Veltre could not be more thankful for the support that the program has received from the Devils.
"The New Jersey Devils, especially Jeff Vanderbeek, have helped lay the foundation for the Hockey In Newark Program since day one,” says Veltre. “This is an organization that cannot do enough for our children, program, and our community and we are all extremely grateful for their support.”
|Veltre speaking, along with Ruppe and Devils’ mascot N.J. (Photo/Anthony Smith). |
The Devils Alumni Association has also put a great deal of time and effort into assisting Hockey In Newark in any way they can. Former Devils Bruce Driver, Grant Marshall, and Ken Daneyko attended the reopening of the rink, and continue to be excited to help.
“This is such a big part of the New Jersey Devils,” says Driver. “Because of our move to Newark, everything we’ve done in the community here, we’ve tried to raise awareness of ice hockey, not just because of the Devils but having youth hockey, the program that they have here in Newark is doing really well.”
Marshall sees Hockey In Newark doing great things in the city, and is proud to be a part of it.
“The Devils always wanted to be part of something so big and so exciting for these kids to be able to come to a place where they can be off the streets and play a great game, learn a great game, and to have some camaraderie, some competition, and add some friends ships that way as well,” Marshall explains, adding “Being a part of the Devils and being a part of this city is a great honor and we’re excited about it."
Daneyko is delighted by what Hockey In Newark has done for city children, and is also very pleased with the Devils’ effort to support the program.
“Newark has grown tremendously with youth hockey,” Daneyko says. “With the Devils’ home being right here in Newark, anytime we can continue to grow hockey, obviously with the reopening of the Ironbound rink I think this is great, we’re glad we can support them.”
Newark East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador was the program’s largest proponent. Some difficult decisions were made, but Amador ultimately stuck with the program and supported assisting it in any way possible from the beginning. Ruppe is thrilled that the program has had the full support of city government over the years.
“It provides consistency. Each and every year they work hard, and this year and next year they’re going to have a rink to go to, and that home away from home to go to five days a week. It’s their escape from academics, it’s their escape from being bored, from sitting in a room all day on PlayStation 3, it’s their outlet and it’s a safe haven for them.” - Keith Veltre“We’re lucky to have this because most cities don’t have something like this rink,” Ruppe says, adding “we’re very fortunate that Councilman Amador and Mayor Booker were able to keep this running.”
Being able to provide what the city has now provided for the children of the program has given Amador the utmost satisfaction.
“It’s a great thing, not only for the Ironbound but also the city of Newark,” Amador believes. “About six months ago, we thought about two options. One was to basically do away completely with this place, and the other was to rehabilitate it. We decided to take the second option, and I think the youngsters, the residents of the city of Newark, benefitted from that decision.”
A large amount of capital funding also went into the arena’s rehabilitation, and Councilman Amador could not be more thankful for what the city and others have helped to provide.
“The investment that we made of approximately $500,000 was worth it,” Amador explains. “With the support from the Devils, and I would like to thank everyone who participated with this project, from the very beginning, the director of engineering, the director of public buildings, the mayor, my colleagues, for the fact that they believed in this project from the very beginning, it’s a great day for the City of Newark, and a great day for the Ironbound.”
“The kids for years have been needing this,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker states. “What they have had to do as a result of not having this had just been incredible hurdles just to get practices in, games in. So this is just an amazing facility now, that really answers the cry and the call from the community to get something like this, and it means so much. It’s incalculable the kind of impact it will have."
|(From right to left) Newark Mayor Cory Booker speaks at the event, along with Councilman Augusto Amador, and Hockey In Newark Coaches Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe (Photo/Anthony Smith). |
Players and parents have anticipated the reopening of the rink for quite some time. Because the reopening of the recreation center was a much awaited event in the community, Renata Dias, parent of two children in the program, is ecstatic about what the renovated rink provides to the children.
“The kids are so excited and it came out so beautiful,” Dias says. “It’s such a long project that we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m very happy for the kids, for the coach, all his work, and now there is much more to come. The kids are happy, we’re happy.”
Former Hockey In Newark participant and current Freshman at Princeton University Kevin Lopez is ecstatic that the rink finally received the renovations it needed during his time playing at the Ironbound Recreation Center, and the renovations have far exceeded Lopez’ expectations.
“Honestly it’s better than I expected,” Lopez explains. “Coming back from school and seeing this place, I almost ask myself ‘where did my rink go? Where did it all go?’ The lockers are beautiful, it looks like they really did invest their time and invested it well because it’s for our kids, which I’m really excited about.”
Going forward, the program is expected to prosper even more so, now that the rink gives the program a permanent home.
“I think going forward, you’ll just see this program grow,” Ruppe says. “We have about 200 kids now, in the near future we’ll have about 500 kids in this program. You’ve seen hockey grow in this city since the Devils have come in, but you’re going to see it grow even more. Hopefully every ward will have a hockey team and we’ll be able to have a city championship one day.”
With the rink renovations now complete, and with the continuing support of both the City of Newark and the New Jersey Devils, Veltre believes that the program will take off from here.
“It’s the beginning of everything just exploding,” Veltre proclaims. “It’s the beginning of us starting travel teams from all ages. It’s the beginning of our high school hockey program finally having consistent ice time, and being able to keep rolling with the momentum that we pick up as opposed to having some momentum and taking two steps back. The opportunities are going to be endless and they sky is the limit for this program.”
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For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.