It was the tournament that almost wasn’t. The mechanical failure at Mackay Park in Englewood forced the rink to shut down a week before it was scheduled to take place. Changing the venue for a tournament like this is not so simple. There are not many rinks that have four hours of open ice on a Sunday afternoon-evening. When Gabriel Jacobson found out the tournament was in danger of being cancelled, his only question was “How many hours do you need...three or four?” Within moments, the ice was confirmed at the Barnabas Health Hockey House, practice facility of the New Jersey Devils, and just like that—the tournament was back on.
As the players filed into the rink, each stopped for a moment just to take in the Stanley Cup banners and retired Devils’ players hanging above. The players came from yeshiva high schools all over the tri-state area to play hockey to benefit The Friendship Circle. Many of the students are quite familiar with the organization and have previously volunteered in engaging children and teens with special needs through many of their incredible programs and experiences.
With the opening face-off between Ramaz and TABC the event was underway. Regular referee Rob Fischer, along with Maury Bauer and Benji Feintuch, kept the 15 minute games moving nicely throughout the evening. The improvement in the quality of hockey was evident, as some big time plays were made and late drama was provided by DRS scoring a goal as the buzzer sounded to close out one of their games.
The event was a tremendous success as more and more players are attending every year due to hockey’s growing popularity. Congratulations to all the memorabilia winners, with Lazer Cohen taking home the Evgeni Malkin signed jersey and Max Petak winning the signed Zach Hyman jersey. Thanks to all the players and their families for their support: Sarah Schechter for all the Friendship Circle swag, Teddy and Deborah Cohen of Jerusalem Pizza in Passaic for the necessary in-game nourishment, shirt sponsor Motti Kremer and Build Within Reach and once again to Gabriel Jacobson for making sure it all happened.
While the tournament signals the end of the yeshiva league ice hockey season, some are just getting started again, as 50 area high school students are set to begin spring league play at Floyd Hall Arena in Montclair and defend their championships.