Free Hockey Programs Teach Urban Kids Life Skills
Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Keith Veltre, Co-Founder & CEO of Hockey in New Jersey. Veltre describes their free hockey programs offered to kids in Newark, Englewood and Jersey City and how the NJ Devils and NHL sponsored program teaches kids life skills.
"Keith Veltre is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hockey In New Jersey, which is? How do you describe the organization? It's really just getting kids starting to play hockey at no cost. Free ice time, free equipment, and free coaching. It's a niche sport that really hasn't ben big in urban areas, but it's one of those sports when you try it, and you get a chance at it, you absolutely either fall in love with it, or it's not for you. And the results have been staggering, to say the least, in urban areas. How old are the kids? 6 to 18, boys and girls. Boys and girls? Yeah. What does it mean for a kid in Newark, or a Jersey City, Englewood, other places, who has never been exposed to hockey to get out there on the ice, learn how to skate, be a part of hockey, what does it mean to that kid? I think first it's humbling. You're bringing kids from all parts of the city and they, you know, they got their bravado, they're tough kids, and then they go out there and their ankles go directly in and they can't move and they're laughing. And it's going through something tough together. But what I think, it's a badge of honor once they start to get the hang of it, and they come together with kids from all different parts of the city, and they see other kids like them, and it's just a... such a fast, physical sport, that they fall in love with it. They love it. How did it all start? 13 years ago, I had a career change, and I had a friend of mine who was the athletic director at Science Park High School call me and say, "Listen..." Science Park in Newark? In Newark, in Newark, yep. So he said, "There's a high school for you in... East Side High School, nobody wants the job. Do me a favor and go... just put in for an interview. You'll make me look good." So I went down there and they told me, "If I don't take the job, they're gonna lose their hockey program." So... You mean as the head coach? Yeah yeah, they had nobody else, it wasn't like... it was... I was up against some tough competition. It was just me. So I said, "I'll take it on under one condition, and that's I bring my closest friend that I play college hockey with down to deal with me. His name is Dennis Ruppe." And we coached that first year. We had... we started with five, ended with ten. It never got to the third..."