NEWARK — Before the New Jersey Devils took on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Prudential Center in Newark on Sunday afternoon, a different kind of event took place at the Barnabas Health Hockey House Practice Facility next door.
The Devils’ alumni organization, led by Stanley Cup champions Bruce Driver, Grant Marshall, Colin White and Ken Daneyko, hosted its fifth semi-annual Adult Dream Day Hockey Camp for fans and former hockey players and once again the prestigious event was a huge success.
The festivities began around 11:15 AM at the Barnabas Facility as Driver delivered opening ceremonies with a meet-and-greet before starting to draw up drills for each player and line to execute.
Driver, along with White and Marshall, led a morning skate session which lasted for over an hour and before players broke off to enter into the Devils’ Alumni Suite to watch the Devils and Blue Jackets square off at 1:00 PM.
“Being able to reconnect with some of the Devils’ Alumni and get on the ice with some of these guys today was a really special experience,” former Rutgers Hockey general manager Adrian Klaassen said. “It’s been awhile since I went through some actual drills out on the ice and it was good to get some practice in today.”
“Usually you’re just playing in one of your games once a week and don’t get a chance to work on your skills. Learning from guys like Bruce Driver, Colin White and Grant Marshall is a great experience and you take away a lot from all they have to offer.”
Nearly 30 campers were on hand filling two locker rooms at this year’s event, which is open the public. Each player on the ice was utilized on a three-man line and Driver ensued to draw up different drills for each line to pursue.
For many of the participants, battling through the drills and pushing their skill set to the next level was something that they haven’t done since their high school and college hockey days.
“It was awesome being out on the ice with guys like Bruce, Colin and Grant and they made this such a fun experience,” Paul Mennona of East Brunswick said. “They ran a really good practice in the morning and I was going through drills I haven’t gone through in a long time.”
Book Your Team’s Skate Here: New Jersey Devils’ Adult Dream Day Camp
“I was a little bit out of my league, some of these guys were a lot younger than me, but for not playing in almost 20 years I had a lot of fun out there today. They were pushing us pretty hard out there and making fun of us a little but I enjoyed doing some of the 2-on-1 drills.”
A big emphasis the Devils’ Alumni and Grassroots organizations wanted to instill through its sponsors, Barnabas Health and JAG Physical Therapy, is the importance of safety and protocol to the youth and high school players throughout the state.
Members of Barnabas Health spoke specifically on concussion protocol and the importance of hydration at the conclusion of the morning skate.
“This was my second year participating in the Devils’ Alumni game and it was another great experience,” Justin Gelesky of Colonia, said. “As a doctor and physical therapist I have to treat a bunch of concussion patients and what the Devils and Barnabas Health are doing for the youth by spreading awareness is a huge thing.”
“It’s a very important thing to get the word out on these matters to high school kids and the Devils do a great job with it,” Gelesky said. “For the whole experience today it was really cool to go out on the ice and be able to skate and play against Driver, White and Marshall and just see them on a relaxed atmosphere out there.”
Following the Devils’ game against the Blue Jackets, fans were treated to the Alumni-Campers Red and White Game on the ice of Prudential Center. The game was recorded and each player was treated to a custom jersey and group picture.
“It was fun and definitely a memorable experience today,” former St. Joseph (Metuchen) hockey player Brian Rasimowicz said. “They dropped a lot of good tidbits on us which was pretty interesting to hear from guys on that level. All those guys were very down to earth.”
“They were easy to talk to and made it fun out there today. It;s very relevant and important that they are very open and willing to make a difference in youth hockey and with safety and it’s something that has to happen,” Rasimowicz added. “I was a little surprised on how much they pushed us in some of the drills, but everything they did was to give us the real experience of being in a pro game situation.”
Written by Chris Costa/HockeyClan