Score one for the good guys.
That’s pretty much the reaction from Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk
when he heard the news that his former youth hockey coach, Alex DePalma, would be receiving the National Hockey League’s 2011 Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award.
DePalma is coach of the Brick Hockey Club in Brick, N.J. where van Riemsdyk played his youth hockey starting at the age of eight years old.
“I pretty proud of him,” said van Riemsdyk. “He’s a guy that never looks to get credit for anything. He’s always been a voluneteer so you don’t see that too much in this day and age and it’s refreshing.”
|James van Riemsdyk pictured with his father Frans (right), former NHL player Adam Graves (middle right) and Alex DePalma (left). Photo courtesy of The Independent |
The annual award was created to reward youth hockey players or mentors for their leadership and contributions to youth sports or education. Nominations were received for the award from across the United States and Canada.
“I know he did everything as a volunteer and he was just in it for the kids. He’s done a lot for growing hockey, whether it be in my area [Middletown, N.J.] and now he’s involved in a special needs hockey program that he basically started on his own, so to see him do that and really give back is pretty cool to see him get recognized.”
New Jersey still isn’t considered a hot-bed of development for professional hockey players, but thanks to people like DePalma it is slowly being recognized even if his kids don’t end up playing in the professional ranks.
“He really taught about the hard work it takes that goes into anything you do. It’s really what prepares you for life. There were a lot of kids that needed help and guidance to get going in the right direction, not only in hockey but also in life. I think he did a great job in molding a lot of the kids that played for him and he did a great job in preparing us for the world.”
The van Riemsdyk family still has a strong connection to DePalma and being one of the coaches to speed the development of JVR through the youth hockey ranks, he continues to this day to watch many of his games.
“I’ve known him for a long time and he still comes down to a lot of Flyers games and still keep in close contact to him and we have a great relationship.
“My dad was actually his assistant coach for a bunch of seasons, and as close as I am with him, my dad is probably closer from all the years they spent together on the bench.”