The Asbury Park Press will host 42 of the top skaters from Monmouth and Ocean Counties at Middletown Ice World on Sunday for a charitable all-star hockey game that would not be possible without the foundation provided by local hockey luminary Jim Dowd.
For the better part of two decades, Dowd — who starred at Brick Township before carrying his skills to Division I Lake Superior State University and eventually made the leap to the NHL for 17 seasons — held his annual Shoot for the Stars Foundation Shore All-Star Game, which stoked the flames of a fun rivalry between the best skaters Monmouth and Ocean had to offer, while shouldering a philanthropic role in our Shore community.
“The first year we put a small game together with some local guys to support someone from the Brick community who was diagnosed with cancer and had their insurance run out,” Dowd said this week. “Then when I saw the success of the All-Shore Football game, I thought, ‘Why can’t we do it with hockey?’
“This community has been great to me over the years. And the games we put on were all to support as many people and causes as we could. We wanted to bring the community together around hockey, and raise a lot of money in the process, and we did that.”
Dowd’s all-star events also served as a summertime showcase for the area’s top talent, annually featuring future NCAA and major junior hockey players, as well as a handful of those who would make their way to the professional ranks.
Likewise, two of the players participating in Sunday’s game are part of the New Jersey Titans, an affiliate of the North American Hockey League. Two Division I commitments will suit up Sunday and four of the all-stars were invited to the USA Hockey Development Camp last month.
“The game was all about giving back, but we also wanted to create a competitive atmosphere,” Dowd said. “We wanted to build that friendly rivalry between counties and we did that by including the best players, no matter what grade they were in.
“I’ve been telling people, college and professional scouts, for the last 25 years how much talent we had in this area, and this game was the evidence.”
2015 has been a tough year for Dowd, who confirmed earlier this summer he would not return as head coach of the Manasquan-Point Pleasant Beach ice hockey cooperative program. His departure followed a lengthy dispute over a simple assault accusation — a charge that was dismissed by Wall Township Municipal Court Judge Joseph Defino on May 21.
And after 17 summers spent directing his all-star game, Dowd decided to step away from the scene this past spring.
But Dowd was pleased to hear the Asbury Park Press would continue the Shore all-star tradition.
“It was a challenging year for me and I think it’s great that the Asbury Park Press is taking the reins on this game,” Dowd said. “The hockey community around here is so unique and I had a lot of fun working with the people in it to make this event happen. From the players, to the coaches, to the volunteers who helped us bring it together each year, I just want to say thank you to them.
“I loved every second of these events. The games were awesome because the players and coaches were out to win and push each other, and because the community rallied around it and around the causes it benefited. … It all goes back to caring about people, and there’s nothing better than helping someone in need.
“I’m very happy to know the tradition will be carried on.”
Join the Shore hockey community Sunday at Middletown Ice World for the inaugural Asbury Park Press All-Star Hockey Classic, presented by Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management, and sponsored by Avon Pond, Beacon Awards & Signs of Middletown and the New Jersey Devils.