The New Jersey Devils hosted a Special Hockey Clinic at the Rock for New Jersey-based American Special Hockey Association teams. (Photo / Prudential Center)
|Members from the North Jersey Avalanche, New Jersey Dare Devils, Mercer Bulldogs, Brick Stars Challengers and Woodbridge Warriors participated in the clinic. (Photo / Prudential Center) |
When attending a Devils game at Prudential Center, it isn’t hard to look out on the ice and picture yourself out there in place of your favorite players. Every hockey fan dreams of getting to skate out on main sheet, to look up and see the seats surrounding you and the jumbotron hovering above you.
For five special hockey teams in New Jersey, the Devils made that dream come true with a Special Hockey Day Clinic held at the Rock.
“To have an organization like [the Devils] recognize these kids and bring them out, show them a good time on the ice, bring out stars, then have an after party where they fed you and get together, it was just a great day. It was a great feeling to be there and a great feeling to be involved with it,” said New Jersey Dare Devils head coach, Stephen Ritter.
|The clinic brought together players from across the state who share a common bond of special hockey. (Photo / Prudential Center) |
On Wednesday, April 23 players from the Brick Stars Challengers, North Jersey Avalanche, New Jersey Dare Devils, Woodbridge Warriors and Mercer Bulldogs came to Newark with the opportunity to skate on the same ice as the Devils and learn from some of the best in the organization’s history.
“There were about 115 kids so it was really nice. Once they got on the ice and were sectioned off into different clinic areas, Ken [Daneyko] and Grant [Marshall] and Bruce [Driver] went and worked with kids in each group,” described the Brick Stars Team Manager, Dina Crepaldi. “The kids were beaming. It was about them, so it was so wonderful to see their faces.”
That day the kids were given the VIP treatment with hockey clinics, ice time, a visit from NJ Devil and their logos up throughout the building.
“I think being on the big ice was really elite for them…being on the big ice having the mascot there, just the little touches having our logo and the logos of the various clubs up on the board. All those things were great for them. In some ways they were intimidated because they’ve never been on the ice in a place like that, so it took them a little while for it all to sink in. But it was fantastic for them,” said Chris Benbow, the Mercer Bulldogs coach and president.
The time with Devils alum also made an impact on the players. Daneyko, Driver and Marshall spent time with the players, first working on on-ice drills and then meeting with the teams after the clinic ended.
|Devils alumni Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver and Grant Marshall were on hand to help run the clinic. (Photo / Prudential Center) |
“We had one of our older players there who struggles with confidence and for him to go through a drill with Grant Marshall, skating with him, and then him scoring the goal, and those two celebrating together, that’s a moment. Those are the moment you remember as a coach that make you want to keep doing what you’re doing,“ recalled Benbow.
Another special aspect to the clinic was its ability to bring together players from across the state who share a unique bond through special hockey. Despite being on different teams and living in different areas of the state, the skaters are friends and so the hockey clinic served as another way for them to play with their friends.
“That’s one of the things we all talk about as parents and coaches,” said Bob Jaffe, head coach of the North Jersey Avalanche. “One of the best times of the year is when these kids go to tournaments and interact with one another. They are always interacting with their teammates, but it is unbelievable when they go to these tournaments, or an event like this and they’re like family. It’s amazing how quickly they bond with one another.”
The day wasn’t just for the players, it was for the coaches, families, team volunteers; everyone who works hard to make sure the organizations keep going.
“For me as a coach it was a thrill. It was a perfect ending to a great season that we have every year,” said Jaffe.
For more pictures from the event, click here.
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.