Potpourri of Devils News

So, it has been kind of a slow month so far in terms of news, but there were some things going on last week so we can talk about that here.

First, the MTV Video Music Awards were held at Prudential Center last Monday and two Devils players took part.

Blake Coleman was the NewJerseyDevils.com Red Carpet Host. He interviewed New York Jets player Brent Qvale, Lizzo, the cast of MTV show Floribama Shore, band CNCO, Diplo, Ice-T and PK Subban and Lindsey Vonn.

Now admittedly, I have no idea who most of those people are, save for Ice-T and, of course, Subban, but it was some good promotion for the team to get in on this. With the event taking place at Prudential Center, it got the Devils some notoriety. According to the Devils’ official blog, Coleman even tried to persuade some of the celebrities to become Devils fans.

Speaking of the VMAs and Subban, he was even more involved in the event. The VMAs had a strong New Jersey flavor being in Newark, as Chris Wescott reported for the Devils’ official blog. He said that Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Redman, Wyclef Jean and Fetty Wap (all Jersey natives) performing. The Jonas Brothers, Halsey, John Travolta, Victor Cruz and the aforementioned Ice-T were also involved in the event. They all hail from the Garden State as well.

Subban was a presenter for the event and he and Vonn told the crowd that he is training hard, looking to bring the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.

Surely, this is the kind of thing the team was looking for when they acquired PK. He brings crossover notoriety to the team and is as at ease in a setting like the VMAs as he is on the ice.

In other, more sports-related news, Martin Brodeur, in an interview with Amanda Stein of the Devils’ website, announced his new golf tournament, the MB30 Invitational. It will take place on September 3 at the Plainfield Country Club and will feature a lot of the Devils’ sponsors and other VIPs.

Marty, an avid golfer, has invited some former and current players including John Madden, who Marty said is a great golfer, Colin White, Jim McKenzie, Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, Bobby Carpenter, Petr Sykora, Cory Schneider, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen and John Hynes. A total of 18 Devils past and present will be there, in addition to former New York Giant Michael Strahan and even a few PGA pros.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Devils Care Foundation to raise money. Devils Care helps New Jersey youth through education and health programs.

Marty told Stein that this will be one of the first events over the year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 2000 Stanley Cup championship.

In one final note that is hockey related, former Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy has decided to call it quits, retiring from the NHL. He announced the retirement to the fans via Twitter this week. Congrats to Lovejoy on a fine NHL career and best of luck to whatever is next for him.

Bruins’ Connor Clifton Helps Local People With Special Needs

This may not be about the Devils, but I thought it was an interesting bit of hockey-related news worthy to blog on.

In today’s edition of the Asbury Park Press, columnist Steve Edelson had a story on the front page of the sports section about the Bruins’ Connor Clifton and the work he is doing with local special needs kids.

Clifton, a Matawan native, attended Christian Brothers Academy before playing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and eventually the NHL and the Bruins. He came within a game of winning the Cup last year with Boston, suffering a game seven loss to the St. Louis Blues.

But off the ice, he is a part of the Autism Movement Project, a “brainchild of three special needs professionals who are part of the local sports community” according to Edelson, “the Autism Movement Project has been making a difference in the lives of special needs kids and adults for nearly two years.”

Edelson described the project as a way to get kids with special needs playing sports and feeling comfortable in the whole environment of participating. He said that in addition to Clifton, the project also brings in other local athletes to work with kids. Included among them are “Rutgers national champion wrestler Anthony Ashmault; former Monmouth University basketball star Justin Robinson, now playing in France; former Jets tight end Neal Sterling, a Belmar native who was also a Monmouth University standout; and former Jackson Memorial hoops standout Eric Carter, who played at Delaware and has been vying for an NBA contract.”

Clifton appeared at St. Denis Elementary School in Manasquan where he played floor hockey with the kids and adults on the school gym basketball court. According to Edelson, the Boston d-man was there to participate in drills with the roughly 30 assembled kids and adults, teaching them a little about hockey, as well as take photos and sign autographs.

Brandon Sierchio, who is a Toms River native who played soccer at Widener University and now works at Search Day Program (which Edelson said is “a school for autistic children in Ocean Township”), is one of the founders of the Autism Movement Project and told Edelson: “It is very rewarding. We have kids that come in and the parents are like, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to like it.’ But then they come back because they say they’re having fun and have a reduced anxiety playing sports and doing fitness, and they start surprising themselves sometimes. Sometimes we’ll say, ‘remember when that kid first started?’ And now you look at him and he’s independent, and he’s doing all the exercises well.”

Edelson said that the program was co-founded two years ago by Sierchio and Vincent Balestrieri of Wall Township. Balestrieri is “a sports psychologist and behavior analyst” as well as Balestieri’s “brother Nic, a Belmar native and former football and track and field star at Manasquan High School, who recently completed his master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.”

Vincent Balestrieri told Edelson that they “were already doing this. We used to run this program as part of a clinical practice that was closed down. And of all the services that the practice provided the fitness and sports program was the one that parents contacted me and said, ‘so you think you could just start that fitness and sports program up again?’ That kind of kicks started (sic) it.”

Sierchio mentioned that “there is nothing like this out there. There are challenger leagues, or you can pay a trainer to work out with your special needs child at your house, but you’re not getting the same thing. We have a social component where we facilitate social skills with kids who have deficits in that area, as well as giving them a safe space to play sports.”

Sierchio continued to Edelson: “some of the kids who are more cognitively aware of their surroundings and how they feel, when they play a sport they may feel uncomfortable and have some anxiety associated with it. We do our best here to coach them at their individual level and allow them to succeed so they want to keep participating in sports.”

For Clifton’s part, he told Edelson: “It’s awesome. I didn’t know what to expect today and it turned out to be a great hour. It was awesome seeing the kids and play some hockey with them. I got a lot of assists out there and they were scoring a lot of goals.”

The Autism Movement Project is a “twice-weekly program” that is “currently transitioning to a non-profit.” It does not feature athletes working with kids in every one of their sessions, but the founders see changes in the participants. As Vincent Balestrieri told Edelson, “It sneaks up on us. Sometimes you’re just like ‘wait a minute, six months ago he couldn’t do that.’ Week-to-week it’s small, baby steps, and then one day you see that they’ve made tremendous gains.”

To learn more about the Autism Movement Project, please visit www.ampfitnj.com.