Hockey in New Jersey, which provides children the opportunity to learn and play ice hockey at no expense, celebrated its first SuperLeague season crowing a pair of champions at the inaugural event this past week!
With locations in Englewood, Jersey City, Montclair, Newark, and recently-added Belleville, Hockey in New Jersey had over 180 participants ages 10–14 playing games at Mackay Park in Englewood, Pershing Field in Jersey City and Clary Anderson Arena in Montclair teaching valuable life skills, training and educational support — all free of cost to players and family. The SuperLeague, in association with the “Hockey is For Everyone Initiative,” consisted of 12 teams from four cities, crowned U-10 and U-12/14 champions Jan. 27-28.
“The SuperLeague was a great way to give the boys and girls of HNJ a taste of what travel hockey feels like. Not every kid can afford or have the opportunity to play hockey at competitive levels, so to see all the kids start with our learn to play programs and progress to the level of play in this league was awesome,” Program Manager Mike Liu said.
With local hockey heroes as part of the festivities, the season started with pomp and circumstance in November. Opening day ceremonies at Clary Anderson in Montclair had Stanley Cup Champion and New Jersey Devils’ alum, Colin White, drop the opening puck. Later that day at Pershing Field Ice Rink in Jersey City, HNJ Girls Hockey Director, Metro Riveters Captain and U.S. National Team defenseman, Shelly Picard, did the honors.
After a hard fought season, the finals came down to a few nail-biters. There was high drama and cold temps in the air between the Jersey City Blazing Hawks and the Englewood Vipers in the HNJ U-10 SuperLeague championships at Mackay Park on Jan. 27. After a back-and-forth game, the Vipers tied the game with 30 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. After a scoreless sudden-death, the game went to shootout with the Blazing Hawks squeaking out the victory.
The U12-14 title game featured two Jersey City teams vying for the inaugural championship as the Green Machine took on the Ice Bolters at Pershing Field on Jan. 28. The Green Machine opened up a big lead before fending off a late surge from the Ice Bolters to capture the HNJ SuperLeague Cup.
After the weekend’s festivities, players and coaches alike were thrilled with the experience Hockey in New Jersey provided.
“I had a lot of fun playing in different rinks we don’t normally play at. It was also great to see my friends I’ve made from different cities on our semi-travel teams and summer camp,” Newark’s Fernanda Venuto said.
That aspect wasn’t lost on the volunteer coaches as well.
“Initially the kids were quite apprehensive visiting the new rinks in Montclair and Jersey City, but once the game got underway they played with the same excitement and determination I had seen at our home games in Englewood,” Vipers’ U-10 coach Tony Iulo said.
“More importantly, seeing the kids interacting with their peers in different cities,” Iulo said. “At the end of the day, it didn’t matter who won.”
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