Holik Talks to “Speak of the Devils” Podcast

The Devils today posted a recap of the recent interview former player Bobby Holik did with their “Speak of the Devils” podcast. The recap comes from their official app.

Holik was a member of the 1995 and 2000 Stanley Cup-winning Devils teams. He also spent time, during an 18-year NHL career with the Hartford Whalers, Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers.

But Holik – a favorite of my brother’s growing up – spent a lot of the conversation focusing on where he came from, most literally.

He spoke to Amanda Stein and Matt Laughlin about his arrival in the United States in 1990 as a 19-year-old first round pick of the Whalers. He came over from Czechoslovakia, which at that time was living under the yoke of Communism as a satellite nation to the Soviet Union.

Around that time, more and more players from the Eastern Bloc were coming to North America to play in the NHL.

Holik was one of those players and told Stein and Laughlin that “people just forget, because they’ve had it for so good, that this country has meant so much for people like me, and my parents, not that they live here, but their son and daughter ended up living here and pursuing their opportunities and chances in life, and much different than it would be in Czechoslovakia under communism.”

Holik would eventually become a naturalized American citizen, as Stein points out in her recap, in Newark, New Jersey in 1996.

Stein describes that when Holik first came to the US, landing in Boston Logan International Airport in 1990 after being drafted by Hartford, he was prepared by his parents “despite [his parents] not quite knowing what they were preparing him for exactly. He was traveling to the United States on his own, stepping into a whole new culture.”

Holik told the hosts: “I’m not trying to sound like an old man or old-fashioned immigrant, but I literally landed […] with a pair of skates and a bad polyester suit. That’s all I had with me. But I had a work ethic, and I had skills and discipline. And I was determined to succeed.”

He continued on, saying that “it was absolutely phenomenal opportunity. That’s all it was. You know, I always go back to what I was talking about earlier, it’s not about what you get. But as long as you get the opportunities, what you do with the opportunities is another story.”

Stein mentioned that Holik was a two-time All-Star who played 11 of his 18 years in the NHL with the Devils. But even he needed to adjust to the league and life in North America.

He told Stein and Laughlin: “I have to give my parents a lot of credit, because they prepared me extremely well, not knowing what they were preparing me for. So, I was from day one, I never had a day or moment where I was looking back or longing for the time has passed. There were doubters, not I, but there were doubters. And I said, you know, what, they’re gonna try to stop me. And at the time was just the end of the Cold War, and there was a lot of dissent towards the Eastern Europeans. And people say, ‘Oh, it was tough for me’, I’m like, ‘you don’t understand. People called me an effing communist, not knowing that my dad was one of the most staunch anti-communists in the history of Czechoslovakia. So, the prejudice was part of it, but I looked at it as a challenge.”

That led into a discussion on what Holik is doing with his life these days. Stein reported that he is using his life lessons “to help the next generation of young men in the world. He now works with young men near his home in Wyoming to mentor them and bring out their fullest potential. It isn’t so much through hockey that he’s invested himself, he works with all kinds of young men, from first-responders, firemen, a variety of athletes that he has crossed paths with.”

Holik elaborated: “That’s what I teach the young men today, when people doubt you, they disrespect you for whatever it is, take it as a challenge to prove them wrong. And my motto was, I’m just going to be too good to be denied […] It’s been wonderful, and all I’m doing is trying to make a difference.”

Strong words from a strong man.

Which brings me to the real reason I am writing this post.

Over the weekend, my Uncle, who has been a big supporter of the blog since day one (he often jokes that he subscribes to the “analog” print version – as he is not really into technology and I would often mail him some of the posts through snail mail so he could read them) had a heart attack.

He was running on a trail in Sussex County, New Jersey when he suffered the heart attack. A bicyclist found him unconscious on the side of the trail and called the police. They responded quickly and got him to the hospital. Words cannot describe how grateful my family and I are to the bicyclist and to the police and first responders.

He is a marathon runner, so his heart survived the ensuing surgery to put a stent in. We are now just waiting to hear word on how his brain – which was without oxygen for a time – is doing.

Please, if you are reading this, keep him in your thoughts and prayers. My parents and my Uncle, much like Bobby Holik’s, taught me to work hard no matter what job you are doing. It is that work ethic that those three people instilled in me (as well as my brother and sister) that keeps me going on this blog.

My Uncle is an inspiration, and his work ethic is legendary. I am actually writing this from my home office that he, myself, my Dad and my brother built (although I think Dad, my brother and myself would all agree that it was my Uncle who did the majority of the heavy lifting.

As I said, keep my Uncle in your thoughts and prayers if you are reading this and we all hope he has a speedy recovery.

Grier, Salvador Coaching in Prestigious Tournament

Devils Assistant Coach Mike Grier and Devils/MSG+ TV analyst Bryce Salvador will be taking a team made up of minority players to a prestigious tournament according to William Douglas on NHL.com.

Grier and Salvador, both former NHL players – with Salvador serving as Devils captain (the third black player to serve as an NHL captain in league history) from 2013 until his retirement – will be coaching “the NextGen AAA Foundation’s team at the invitation-only Beantown Summer Classic in Exeter, New Hampshire from Aug. 8-11” according to Douglas in his “Color of Hockey” article on August 4.

The team, which is a part of the NextGen Foundation, a nonprofit “that provides mentoring, education and hockey programs to underprivileged youth and underserved communities. It was founded in 2017 by philanthropist Dee Dee Ricks, who has provided more than $1 million to help Black and brown student-athletes at some of the nation’s leading preparatory schools, colleges and travel hockey programs throughout North America.”

The team was “recruited by Rod Braceful, the assistant director of player personnel for USA Hockey’s National Development Team” according to Douglas.

The team will feature some great talent, as forward Reggie Millette will be attending American International College in 2021-22, defenseman Christian Jimenez will suit up for Harvard in the same season and forward Ross Mitton will play at Colgate this upcoming season.

Grier said: “I’m extremely happy and grateful to work with this group of talented players. The game of hockey continues to increase the number of diverse players with the talent and skill to compete in college, in the minors, and the NHL, and supporting organizations like NextGen, who develop those pathways, is vital.”

The NextGen AAA Foundation team competing in the Beantown Summer Classic comes on the heels of Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild making a great appeal to the entire sport of hockey in an effort to end racism in the opening to the Stanley Cup Qualifying round in Edmonton on Saturday. Dumba’s speech has been widely applauded and his message of inclusion in the sport is something that has to be listened to if we are to move forward. It was a great message and shows that the face of hockey is not one color or gender, but rather a mix of many different faces.

NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs, Kim Davis told Douglas: “NextGen is carving out a pipeline of diverse, elite-level hockey talent. We believe that in the near future, more teams across the continent will feature more players of color, and this NextGen team is a strong signal that we are moving closer to that day.”

The Beantown Summer Classic takes place in Exeter, New Hampshire from August 8 to 11, 2020 and will be sponsored by the NHL and Pure Hockey.

In other (power outage-backed up) news, the Devils have initiated a program to benefit Newark Working Kitchens.

The team, in partnership with Prudential Center and sponsors Investors Bank and RWJBarnabas Health, have announced Donate a Plate. This is “a virtual fundraiser benefitting Newark Working Kitchens.” This will enlist “local restaurants to deliver nutritious meals to vulnerable populations across Newark, including low-income seniors and families, the homeless, and others.”

Investors Bank and RWJBarnabas Health are kicking things off by donating 500 meals each to the initiative. The Devils and “their Premium Seating Partners” have matched that with 1,000 meals. All totaled, that comes to 2,000 meals for those in need.

The press release put out by the Devils says that “fans have a chance to participate in the giving by creating their own donation pages to share with family and friends. At the conclusion of the month-long fundraiser, the top three donors will receive a future Devils Premium Seating Experience at Prudential Center.”

Jillian Frechette, Senior Vice President, Marketing, New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center said: “We are grateful to Investors Bank and RWJBarnabas Health for joining us in our mission to support Newark residents and the local restaurants which continue to provide meals during this time. On and off the ice, Newark is our home and our commitment to the community continues to be of the utmost importance. The goal of this virtual fundraiser is to motivate others to support those who are in need because together, with our community, we are one.”

Investors Bank Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Dorian Hansen said “We are thrilled to kick off the Donate a Plate virtual fundraiser alongside the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center. Newark Working Kitchens is making an impact in a city that has been disproportionately hit by COVID-19 and we are proud to support them in their mission. This initiative is a meaningful way that fans can support those who are in need during this time.”

Barry H. Ostrowsky, the President and Chief Executive Officer of RWJBarnabas Health said “Our partnership with the New Jersey Devils is predicated on promoting the importance of healthy and active living, and proper nutrition is such a critical component. During this pandemic, the more vulnerable communities need our support more than ever, and I’m thrilled that through this program we have an opportunity to provide nutritious meals to those in need.”

The Devils had previously donated $200,000 to Newark Working Kitchens through their Devils Care Foundation.

If you would like to participate, the website to visit is: NewJerseyDevils.com/donateaplate.