Hockey supporters are a passionate bunch. Anyone who learns about this great game absolutely loves it. Newark’s hockey community is no different.
After more political hurdles and opposition, the Ironbound rink has successfully undergone renovations. It’s another victory for the rapidly growing number of coaches, parents, fans, alumni, and most importantly, children of the hockey community in Newark. It called for a grand re-opening celebration of the rink with everyone involved in attendance On Saturday December 1, we all assembled at the home rink of East Side High School and put the growth and success of the game of ice hockey in this great city into perspective. Waiting for the skaters at 10AM that morning was a beautiful sheet of ice as smooth and shiny as glass.
Support for Newark’s hockey future has always come from the New Jersey Devils. Again, our mascot NJ Devil and members of the Alumni Association were present, signing autographs taking pictures, and mingling with the kids, parents, and leaders of Newark. Grant Marshall, Alumni Director Bruce Driver, and Ken Daneyko sat side by side near the entrance and greeted everyone with a signed action photo. Then, at 10:30AM Bruce Driver picks his head up and roars “look what the cat dragged in!” and in strolls John MacLean. An hour later, Devils/WFAN Play-by-play Matt Loughlin gets on the mike and begins the day’s ceremonies. He exclaims it is “a very special day in a very special building.” He introduces the two coaches that by now everyone is very familiar with: Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe.
Keith mentioned that John MacLean, the former all time leading scorer for the Devils, was the first to donate hockey equipment. He discussed the morals and values that he focuses on bringing to the rink, and expressed his feelings of “belief, hope, and excitement.” He then introduced his best friend for the last 10 years and his co-founder of the non-profit Hockey in Newark program. Dennis focused on a player that came through the hockey program in Newark and is now playing at Princeton University: Kevin Lopez. The Colombian-Ecuadorian talked about how Hockey in Newark changed his life as it gave him a group to belong to and taught him to be a stronger, tougher individual.
East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador spoke next. He talked about how the facility had undergone a huge turnaround in the last six months, how there was a real sense of community in the program, and about how hockey, especially in Newark, is a sport open and available to everyone. He recalled the challenges that the sport faced, such as competing with soccer and securing funds. He then shared with us his vision for Hockey in Newark to run the hockey rink in the future.
Finally, Mayor Cory Booker arrived and quickly addressed the audience. He thanked the New Jersey Devils and talked about being excited about the growth of the program and said “this is Newark right now.” After a couple of pictures and a tour of the new locker rooms, he chatted with a few people on his way out. I asked him for some positive news on the relationship between Newark and the New Jersey Devils. Although he said that “everything is still the same,” meaning there are still differences between him and our Chairman and Managing Partner Jeff Vanderbeek, he immediately turned his attention to something else on his mind. “We need to end this lockout!”
At least we can all agree on something!