On December 20 Kyle Palmieri scored the game winning goal against the Devils in front of a hometown crowd of family, friends and his alma mater; St. Peter's Prep. (Photo/Courtesy Al Bello Getty Images)
Every high school coach wants their athletes to play well and excel in school, but that isn’t enough for Mike Goodrich. The St. Peter’s Prep head coach wants to also give his varsity ice hockey team experiences that will teach them lessons they can take with them long after their playing careers are over.
When St. Peter’s most popular hockey alumni Kyle Palmieri traveled back to the east coast with his NHL club, the Anaheim Ducks, to play the Devils, Goodrich made sure his team had seats at the game.
“It was a really great night and these experiences really bring the team together and they help set you up when you play these battle games,” said Goodrich. “ … We all had dinner together and then went up and watched the Devils play together. Watching Kyle on the biggest stage of pro hockey, it’s just a great night and I hope it’s one of those experiences they always remember.”
The team couldn’t have scripted the night any better if the game was written as the latest installment of the Mighty Ducks franchise.
Prior to the Devils/Ducks game, St. Peter’s faced Red Bank Catholic in the AmeriHealth Pavilion adjacent to the main rink at the Rock. In that game St. Peter’s went out and defeated their opponents 9-1 with Palmieri looking on from the stands.
... At the end of the day you have a guy who grew up here, he played the same hockey these guys are playing ... - Mike Goodrich
Later that night with Palmieri dressed in his Ducks uniform skating in front of his hometown crowd and over 100 of his family and friends as well as his old high school team, number 21 scored the game-winning goal in overtime. The Ducks took the win, the hometown boy was the hero and the hometown team still got a point in the standings.
It couldn’t have been imagined any better and the St. Peter’s team was there to witness it.
“I don’t think they could have written the story better, but I think our kids were very excited to see Kyle get the game winner at the end,” said Goodrich. “ … It’s pretty neat seeing a guy who isn’t much older than you, who went to the same school you did, to have so much success. At the end of the day we want our guys to dream big.”
|Head Coach Mike Goodrich also took his team to see Palmieri play in Buffalo, N.Y. for the World Juniors. Palmieri met and spoke with the team afterwards. (Photo/ Courtesy Mike Goodrich) |
The Friday night game wasn’t the first time Goodrich has taken his team to watch Palmieri. Three years ago when he was playing for Team USA on the World Juniors team in Buffalo, NY, Goodrich made the trek with his group where they watched the games and got to meet Palmieri afterwards.
“It was awesome; it was really just a great experience for the guys. We waited after the game and he came and hung out with us and his brother was on the team then, so it was really a family thing. Just to watch him score a goal that night, the kids were high fiving each other and chanting St. Peter’s, so there was a lot of camaraderie with the school. Our alumni are a big part of this place … so for us to have Kyle, we want to take advantage of that.”
Goodrich uses these trips to teach his athletes about respecting your team and teammates as well as life lessons that they can take with them beyond the rink. He wants to show his team that even though they watch these NHL players skating on the biggest stage they can in a pro career, they are still down-to-earth guys. That’s what he wants his athletes to take-away.
“These guys are pro-athletes, but they’re also super human beings and I think most pro hockey players are like that. I like them to see that they’re not ego guys, they don’t act like jerks, they’re friendly they’re caring and that’s what I want. I want them to act that way, respect the sport, and always do your best and worry about the things you need to worry about. Having Kyle come talk to them, or having them watch Kyle, it’s just [saying], hey, you can dream and that’s the idea.”
As head coach of St. Peter’s varsity team, Coach Goodrich knows that winning hockey games is important, but it’s not the only thing. By bringing his team to the different games, he is creating a camaraderie that extends beyond the current team and into the entire school program.
Palmieri may be from New York originally, but he still calls New Jersey home and he still has strong ties to St. Peter’s Prep. The night of the Devils/Ducks game, Anaheim recognized Goodrich’s team in the arena showing support for someone who’s still considered a part of the hockey family. This just added to the experience Goodrich was able to give to his athletes.
|Palmieri's 2006 St. Peter's Prep player shot. (Photo/ Courtesy Tim Farrell Star Ledger) |
“When you see [Kyle] in person it’s not like he’s this 6’8 monster, he looks like one of the guys who is obviously just an unbelievable hockey player and I’m glad he recognized us … at the end of the day you have a guy who grew up here, he played the same hockey these guys are playing, and at the time he was here, he had the same goals these guys have to win a state tournament, get better and get a good education,” said Goodrich. “Obviously his level has gone to the pros and that’s something so many kids dream of and the odds are … incredibly low and to have a kid from your neck of the woods doing the same stuff you’re doing to make it is just an amazing thing.”
Following the Devils/Ducks game at the Prudential Center, St. Peter’s has battled in their own matches, going 1-1, Goodrich believes there are some things you can’t teach your team by speaking to them, some things just need to be seen first-hand. Seeing Palmieri play gives these student-athletes something that can strive for and emulate and that’s what Goodrich was hoping for.
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.