Written by: Elizabeth Aranjo- Director of Athletics, East Side High School
Hockey in Newark was conceived out of a desperate need to supply a feeder source for East Side High School’s ice hockey team, a program precariously close to disbanding. As the only urban high school program in the state, the team had struggled for decades relying on the pure athleticism of its students who joined the team with absolutely no playing experience.
On the verge of shutting down in 2003, Coaches Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe, school teachers for the Newark Public Schools were hired and asked to perform a miracle. They started out with five players that season and ended with ten first-year players. They struggled through painful losses, ice meltdowns and broken zambonis but pressed on. In 2005, they snapped a 36-game losing streak and ended the season with 25 players. For their efforts, they were named Essex County Coaches of the Year by the Star-Ledger.
In 2006, the team qualified for the league playoffs, a feat not accomplished in ten years and was able to field both a varsity and junior varsity squad. Coach Veltre and Coach Ruppe also secured $25,000 worth of donated equipment for the program.
Realizing that the constant uphill battle was never going to resolve itself unless they did something about it, Coaches Veltre and Ruppe devised a plan that if successful, would allow them to tap into the hidden talents of our city’s youth. The purpose was twofold: introduce them to a sport they were deeply passionate about and hopefully ignite the same feelings and provide a steady source of hockey players with playing experience. And so Hockey in Newark was born!
In 2007, the coaches tested the waters by holding a “Learn to Play Hockey” clinic. To their amazement, over fifty children ages 10-14 showed up and participated in a program that quickly grew by word of mouth only. Soon after, Coaches Veltre and Ruppe procured another $85,000 worth of donated equipment through the generosity of groups eager to help our fledging program thrive.
The Devils Arena Entertainment, LLC also stepped in and provided jerseys, funding and helped us become a part of the NHL’s Diversity program through their sponsorship.
Fast forward to 2008. This ambitious non-profit now plans to cultivate hockey in Newark on various levels in partnership with the Devils Arena Entertainment, LLC, The Newark Public Schools and the City of Newark and its Department of Recreation.
Through Hockey In Newark, the establishment of a varsity and junior varsity program at the high school level for the Red Raiders of East Side High School has been made possible as well as a youth program and our most recent proudest accomplishment, the travel house team Newark Americans.
Since 2003, Hockey In Newark has grown exponentially from five players to over one hundred. We can’t wait to see what the future holds!