Summertime showcases for Shore Conference hockey’s brightest young stars has been a staple in our community for the better part of two decades.
Jim Dowd’s Shoot for the Stars Foundation provided such that sort of stage for 18 years, and the Asbury Park Press is proud to continue the tradition of housing the most talented of local luminaries, NCAA Division I commits, and future professional prospects on Sunday, Aug. 23 at Middletown Ice World.
Players like Tim and Connor Clifton (Quinnipiac), Tom Panico (UMass Lowell), Joakim Ryan (Cornell — San Jose Sharks), Zach Berzolla (Colorado College), and Khristian Acosta (Quinnipiac) have put their skills on display at these charitable competitions, but no skaters have graduated to more prominence than burgeoning NHL stars James and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
The van Riemsdyk brothers — including Brendan, the youngest of the bunch who will soon follow in his brothers’ skate strides to compete at the University of New Hampshire — were recently under the same roof at the Ocean Ice Palace in Brick when Trevor, a Chicago Blackhawks defensemen and newly minted Stanley Cup champion, brought the most iconic trophy in all of sports to the Jersey Shore.
Celebrating this monumental achievement in that sort of environment allowed the van Riemsdyks to reflect on their scholastic careers of yesteryear, and what it meant to star on the local hockey circuit.
“Hockey in this area has done so much for us, and the sport has come such a long way over the past few years,” said Trevor, who starred on the CBA blue line until 2009, when he made the leap to major junior hockey following his junior year with the Colts. “There’s so many guys now, here and around the state, who are going on from high school to Division I hockey. And it’s pretty cool to have been part of it.”
James departed from CBA after his sophomore season, moving to Minnesota where he joined the USA Hockey National Team Developmental Program in 2007, before the Philadelphia Flyers selected him second overall in that year’s NHL draft.
“It’s always special for us to come back here,” said James, a Toronto Maple Leafs winger and USA Olympian. “The memories you have of playing with friends, and all the good times you had on the ice together, they always come rushing back.”
The capacity Ocean Ice Palace congregation that lined the glass and packed the balcony seating alluded to a shift in the focus of ice hockey on the Jersey Shore. Where the van Riemsdyks once looked to former Brick Township standout and NHL veteran of 17 years, Jim Dowd, as the pioneer of New Jersey’s hockey pipeline to the collegiate and professional levels, young skaters now view the pair of Middletown natives in the same light — and it’s a responsibility they are more than willing to shoulder.
“I remember being one of these kids not too long ago,” said James, who was named the MVP of Dowd’s 2004 Shoot for the Stars Foundation All-Star Hockey Game. “We loved hockey and were looking up to guys like Jimmy Dowd. But we’re getting a little older now and are at a point in our careers where the shoe is on the other foot…It feels a little bizarre, but it’s a lot of fun too.”
“It’s great to come back here and see the kids’ faces light up,” said Trevor, who was honored as MVP in Dowd’s 2009 game. “If you can be a guy that they look up to, and be a good role model, and do the right things on and off the ice, it’s a special thing. And I hope we can be those guys.”
Come see the next great Shore Conference hockey stars at Middletown Ice World on Sunday, Aug. 23 at the inaugural APP All-Star Hockey Classic, a charitable event to raise funds and support for the JBJ Soul Kitchen of Red Bank and Toms River.
The Details: Presented by Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management, and sponsored by Avon Pond, Beacon Awards & Signs of Middletown, and the New Jersey Devils, the Asbury Park Press invites fans to join the festivities starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23 for this fundraising all-star event.
Tickets for the inaugural APP All-Star Hockey Classic, which will have the puck dropped at 4 p.m., are $10 and will be available at Middletown Ice World on the day of the event, which will feature a free autograph session by former NHL players like Grant Marshall of the New Jersey Devils and Nicholas Fotiu of the New York Rangers.
The event will help raise money and awareness for the JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community-based nonprofit program operated by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which has dining locations in Red Bank and Toms River.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen will be the beneficiary of a charity raffle held on site with 100 percent of proceeds going to the program. Raffle items will include autographed memorabilia from NHL, NFL, and MLB greats — including a signed Devils team stick, and autographed Ken Daneyko and Grant Marshall jerseys — among other prizes.
A portion of funds raised by ticket, t-shirt, and program sales will also be donated to the JBJ Soul Kitchen.
The JBJ Soul Kitchen was established in 2011 by Garden State rocker and philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi, and founded on the idea that no one should be without a hot and nutritious meal, regardless of their financial situation. With that notion in mind, the JBJ Soul Kitchen’s menu has no prices, instead asking its customer to pay a minimum donation, or to volunteer their time in exchange for a meal.
Stay with the Press and APP.com in the upcoming weeks for more information. If you are interested in getting involved in the inaugural Asbury Park Press Hockey Classic, contact hockey beat writer Chris Rotolo at email@example.com.