Prudential Center to Host 6th Annual Mikey Strong Charity Game

The Devils and the Prudential Center will once again play host to the Mikey Strong Charity Hockey Game, the sixth edition of the event “to benefit spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives.” The game will take place March 27 at 7 PM.

The game is two periods and will be hosted by Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti of WFAN’s “Boomer & Gio” morning show.

Plenty of former Devils and NHL Alumni will be in attendance including Bruce Driver, Colin White, Marek Zidlicky, Randy Velischek, Jim Dowd, Tommy Albelin and Ken Daneyko according to the press release put out by the Devils.

According to the press release, “proceeds from the game will go to the Nichols Family Trust to provide for [Mike] Nichols’ medical needs, as well as the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for individuals living with paralysis. The presenting sponsor, M&M’S, is also returning for a fourth year to help raise awareness for Nichols and his work to elevate the needs of the paralysis community.”

Mike Nichols talked about what the game means to him when he said “The Mikey Strong charity hockey game is an event I look forward to every year. Each year the game continues to grow and I’m extremely grateful for that. I’ve always been a huge hockey fan and a big sports radio fan and seeing my two worlds collide with the common goal of creating a world without wheelchairs is special to me. Hockey is more than just a game. It’s a community of strong, like minded people, who won’t give up.”

Nichols was paralyzed in a varsity hockey game in January 2014 for Monroe Township. He now serves as an ambassador for the Reeve Foundation and the game played in his name has received support from the local hockey and sports community including the Devils and WFAN.

Since the first game six years ago, “over $400,000 has been raised to benefit the Nichols Family Trust and the Reeve Foundation. Funds raised from the Mikey Strong Charity Hockey Game will support the advancement of innovative research and the development of life-changing treatments for spinal cord injury. One of the research programs that Nichols has been a strong advocate for is The Big Idea, the Reeve Foundation’s most ambitious scientific endeavor to study the impact of epidural stimulation on individuals who have been completely paralyzed for years.”

General Admission tickets can be bought for $25 at NewJerseyDevils.com/MikeyStrong. The press release also advises that #MikeyStrong, #JoinReeve, @Prucenter and @ReeveFoundation are the tags to be used in social media posts leading up to the game.

In addition, the doors open at Prudential Center for the game at 6 PM on March 27 and the first 5,000 fans will receive a voucher for two complimentary tickets to a select Devils game during the 2020-21 season and a voucher for two complimentary tickets to a select New York Yankees game in 2020. The game starts at 7 PM.

Challenger Winter Classic a Great Day for Hockey in Avon

This week’s Coast Star, a weekly newspaper covering events in towns in southern Monmouth County, New Jersey, had a great writeup this week by Scott Yunker about the Challenger Winter Classic.

The Challenger Winter Classic is an annual event that this year took place on Super Bowl Sunday. It pits the USA Warriors, a team made up of military veterans from across the country (most of the players in this year’s contest hailed from the Washington, DC area according to Yunker), against the Brick Stars, a team made up of special-needs players from the Shore area.

Attending the game, which took place at Avon Pond, an outdoor rink in Avon-by-the-Sea, were Devils alumni Bruce Driver and Grant Marshall, along with mascot NJ Devil.

Also in attendance were many local high school hockey teams and coaches. Yunker counted Wall, St. Rose, Point Boro, Manasquan, Lacey Township, Christian Brothers Academy and Central Regional high school all having representatives at the game. Many were there supporting friends, siblings or even teammates on the Brick Stars, according to Yunker.

Playing for the Stars was Eric Czaplinski, a player recently profiled by the Devils on social media who lives with cerebral palsy and manages the Lacey high school team. He recently suited up for the Lions and got to play in a varsity game as a senior and scored a goal.

The Stars, who are usually clad in Brick’s traditional green, wore special replica jerseys of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team that won gold in Lake Placid, New York for the game.

As mentioned, many of the members of the Stars have connections to other local hockey players. Yunker shared a story about some high senior hockey players from Wall whose connections go very deep.

Yunker interviewed Zach Ruzell, Will Harrington and Gio Crepaldi. For Ruzell, Yunker said that “he and his friends assist Brick Star coaches in mentoring players at the Ocean Ice Palace in Brick Township on weekends” during the hockey season.

For Harrington, his brother Ryan plays for the Stars, as does Gio’s brother Paulie. Yunker notes that Paulie and Gio’s mother, Dina Crepaldi “is a co-founder and co-director of the program.”

Yunker quoted Harrington as saying that his brother “loves it. He has his equipment out the night before, every single night. He gets up at 6:30 in the morning to get dressed for practice.” Gio Crepaldi said: “We started when he was 8 years old, and it took off from there. He went from barely being able to skate … to having his own team. It’s awesome.”

For their part, Marshall and Driver had a few words about the event. Marshall told Yunker: “It’s the consummate team sport,” referring to hockey, “It’s an enjoyable time for us to spend time with anyone that’s playing hockey.”

Driver added “It’s always exciting for us. [Brick Stars co-founder] Alex DePalma has done such an amazing, amazing job. He’s a good human being, a good soul that wants to give back … We’re proud to be a part of it.”

The Brick Stars Challenger program has been going strong for 10 years now, according to Yunker, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. The Challenger Winter Classic is a great Shore-area, and New Jersey, hockey tradition and it never fails to bring a smile to the face of any local hockey fan.