New Jersey Devils Forward David Clarkson Becoming Star On and Off the Ice

Vincent Pugliese/ Getty Images

Vincent Pugliese/ Getty Images

By Kristin Tullo (@K_Tullo)

New Jersey Devils forward, David Clarkson, was the star of the evening in Newark once again last night, this time in front of 200 smiling, grateful faces from the Hockey In Newark program, where Clarkson and the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams program donated 50 sets of brand new equipment.

The Goals & Dreams program allowed for Clarkson to choose an organization in which he would donate equipment and after talking to co-founder of Hockey In Newark, Keith Veltre, Clarkson said it was a “no brainer” to choose the organization right in the heart of the city the Devils now call home.

Prior to the re-location of the Devils to Newark, hockey becoming popular in the city of Newark was just an idea in the minds of two East Side teachers who wanted to share their passion for the sport , with a hope that it would catch on.

Handed a team of five players and equipment that would even make the kids from The Mighty Ducks blush, Dennis Ruppe and Keith Veltre, became inspired by the dedication of their players who continued to show up, regardless of their 36-game losing streak. Two years after the program looked like it would shut down completely, co-founders Ruppe and Veltre, were named Essex County Coaches of the Year by the Star-Ledger and qualified for to the league playoffs the following year. Recognizing the attention the hockey program needed to continue receiving but not wanting to have to spend money doing it, the two created a non-profit organization which would develop players without the high cost of ice time and equipment.

Today, nearly 10 years after they began, Hockey In Newark has over 200 participants between the ages of 6-14 with a growing popularity, all because Ruppe and Veltre got people to believe in their mission. One parent, whose eight year old son is part of HIN, described the work done as “awesome” and “something nobody else has done for us”. While her son may not be the first up in the morning Monday through Friday, Susan Carreira says he is the one pushing her out the door on Saturdays to get to the rink, “He say’s ‘Mom I want to be a hockey player, I want to be Patrik Elias.’ “

“ This is a place for them to be away from everything and they get to have fun on the ice. Thats what it was too, when I was a kid. When you’re on the ice, nothing else matters.”- David Clarkson

As a hockey player that didn’t make it into the National Hockey League in the conventional way of being drafted, Clarkson knows what dreams and dedication can get you and it was the message he had today for the children in Newark.

“I was always told I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t tough enough, I wasn’t good enough and that pushed me more to prove people wrong. Dream big; whatever your dreams are just dream. If you want to do something in life and you put your mind to it anything is possible.”

With some help along the way of other great people around the state of New Jersey that share a love for the sport of hockey and those willing to give their time to kids that have showed dedication and appreciation, the dream of spreading the love of hockey around the inner city of Newark has been accomplished.

In January, Hockey In Newark announced that David Clarkson was the newest member of their Advisory Board. For more info on Hockey In Newark, check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, @HockeyInNewark

You can follow Kristin Tullo on Twitter @K_Tullo or e-mail her at KristinTullo@gmail.com

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