2010-08-05 / Sports

H.S. hockey standouts set for summer classic

NHL veteran Jim Dowd is once again organizing a special event for charity
BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI
Correspondent
Jim Dowd, a Brick Township native who retired in April 2009 after 14 seasons in the NHL, watched the 2010 Stanley Cup finals in June with keen interest.

The Chicago Blackhawks ended a long dry spell with a dramatic championship over the Philadelphia Flyers, the team for which Dowd had played two seasons earlier. The Flyers that year had the biggest turnaround in the NHL, reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals.

“It was great. I was rooting for the Flyers, but it was a great series,” said Dowd, who played in 728 games, scoring 71 goals and dishing out 168 assists, and who was a member of the New Jersey Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup championship team. “The whole playoffs this year were pretty good, to say the least.”

The Flyers qualified for the playoffs the last day of the 2009-10 regular season, winning a shootout against the New York Rangers to nail down a spot in the postseason.

“Anybody but them; I hate them [the Rangers],” said Dowd with a laugh.

Dowd has been busy sitting in as a regular commentator for NHL Live on Sirius/ XM satellite radio and on Fourthperiod.com satellite radio NHL talk shows. He also is a partner in a startup company that sells franchises to contractors for removal of mold in homes.

“It is an environmental company that has a whole different approach to the problem,” said Dowd. “I went through this myself, so I’ve come to understand it and how it can affect homes and your health. We are going through R and D (research and development for federal licensing) right now.”

Dowd is also busy organizing his 13th annual Shoot for the Stars Foundation event to be held Aug. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Red Bank Armory, 76 Chestnut St., Red Bank. The summer ice hockey game pits outstanding players from Monmouth County high schools against Ocean County standouts. Tickets to the game will be $10 each at the door.

Monmouth County leads the series, 8-4, and had won seven straight games before Ocean County pulled out an exciting 4-3 victory in 2009. The last three games have been decided by one goal, with Monmouth County winning 5-4 in overtime in 2008.

A most valuable player will be selected from each team, as they have for the past nine years.

Middletown native James Van Riemsdyk, who comes off a fine season (15 goals, 20 assists) for the Flyers as the No. 2 pick overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, will be at the event.

VanRiemsdyk played in this game in 2004 and was named the Most Valuable Player for the Monmouth County team in an 8-1 victory.

His brother, Trevor, was named the Most Valuable Player for the Monmouth County all-stars in last year’s game. Both young men played high school hockey at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft.

There will also be an auction of attractive NHL memorabilia donated by players to Dowd. The auction has been a big hit at past events.

As in the past 12 years, Dowd has selected a charity in the area to benefit from the game, and this year’s event will give proceeds to the Brick Stars Special Needs Challenger ice hockey program that was launched last year by the Brick Hockey Club, where Dowd refined his skills as a youngster at the home rink of Ocean Ice Palace.

Alex DePalma, the coaching director for the Brick Hockey Club and coaching director for USA Hockey Atlantic Division, founded the program, which is offered to youths in both counties between the ages of 5 and 17.

“I was lucky enough to have gone on the ice with them this year, and it’s a great program,” said Dowd. “It was amazing seeing the kids go out there. I got to see firsthand the joy it brings to the kids as they step onto the ice and attempt something they never thought they would have a chance to do. It’s the happiest feeling.”

DePalma’s son, Alex, played for the Monmouth County team in the 2008 all-star overtime thriller as a student at Christian Brothers Academy.

“I never envisioned the program being this successful and touching so many people,” said DePalma, who said the Challenger program started with eight players last fall and has grown to 28. “I can’t believe in one year how it has grown, for someone like myself involved with hockey all my life.

“It is amazing to see the amount of volunteers, sometimes as many as 20 coming from distances in the two counties, and the time they put in and the stimulation of seeing kids do things they never experienced,” said DePalma. “To see this and [to have] this all-star game for this is exciting and humbling.”

Dowd said there are three programs like the Brick Challenger ice hockey program in New Jersey. The other two are the WoodbridgeWolfpack that is supported financially by Woodbridge, and the New Jersey Daredevils, funded by the New Jersey Devils, that has its program at the South Mountain/ Codey Arena in West Orange.

The Brick Stars program is supported by charitable contributions and by the families of the participants.

John Schwartz of the Daredevils program originally proposed the idea for a Challenger program in Brick Township to DePalma, who said its popularity in the first eight-week session when ice time initially became available led to two more sessions of 10 and eight weeks that extended into March.

“The Brick Stars program is the fastestgrowing Challenger program in New Jersey and it is also the only one totally funded by the people, with no outside monetary assistance,” said Dowd. “We would like to make sure this program not only survives but can grow as needed.”

DePalma said, “Everybody who has played in this program experienced something.”

Participants in the Brick Challenger ice hockey program include young people with autism, Down syndrome, one with a knee injury from a traumatic car accident, another with limited physical dexterity from a bone marrow transplant, and one with a serious visual problem.

Dowd is still looking for business sponsorships for the program and for donations. He may be contacted by email at jdowd@jdsftsf.com or by phone at 732- 701-9215.

“Everything is in order. I can’t believe it’s 13 years” for the high school all-star game, said Dowd, who got some added enjoyment organizing the game to see his nephew, Brendan, who starred at Brick Township High School, get selected.

Dowd thanked a dedicated group of volunteers who are making this year’s game happens, including his wife, Lisa; Erin and Tom Cooper; Kristen Dolan; Pat Doyle; Rick Handchen; Mike Zebro; Karen and Eric Staub; and Dave VanVechten.

Dowd also acknowledged Doug Brooks, the owner of the Red Bank Armory, and his staff for their preparation of the arena and for providing free ice time for the Aug. 8 game and for a scrimmage that will take place on Aug. 6 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“They do a tremendous job every year,” said Dowd, who also coaches a youth team that plays its games at the Red Bank Armory.

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