July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Devils Honor Frisch’s Ice Hockey Team

In an exciting event, for the first time ever, the New Jersey Devils honored Frisch’s ice hockey team by displaying the team’s jersey in the lobby of the Prudential Center in Newark. The Cougars’ jersey appeared alongside established programs such as Bergen Catholic and Delbarton. Additionally, in honor of the Devils’ 10th annual “Captain’s Night,” an event that pays tribute to high school ice hockey teams, Frisch’s team captains were invited to come on-ice along with many other captains from New Jersey schools. Unfortunately, the team was unable to attend because the game took place on a Shabbos.

Frisch first formed an ice hockey team over a decade ago, but, unfortunately, it did not last. However, the team began playing again last season thanks to the hard work of Ralph Abecassis, the team’s coach, and the dedicated freshmen (and their families) who made up most of the team.

The first problem was finding a place and time to practice. The team managed to reserve time on Saturday nights at the Mackay Park ice rink and it was off and running (or rather, skating). The team was fortunate that the rink had been recently reopened after being shut down by Hurricane Sandy, thanks to a group of Englewood residents which included Coach Abecassis.

Frisch’s team was not expected to do much of anything in its first year of existence, but it surprised, winning its first game, nine goals to one, against Kearny High School. The streak of success continued in the team’s second contest, which it won six goals to four against Riverbank.

By the end of the winter season, the team’s record stood at a very respectable five wins and two losses. The spring season was almost as good, with a final record of six wins and four losses. The season ended in dramatic fashion, in an overtime loss to Passaic Valley.

Frisch’s spring league team did not just consist of Frisch students. Coach Abecassis says that it “included several incoming freshmen and some SAR imports and one Bergen Catholic import and one Don Bosco import.” Adding, “How is that for diversity?”

The team plays in the NJSIAA, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, a league which Coach Abecassis says is extremely competitive, although that may be to its detriment. Almost all schools in the state compete through this organization and often decline to play against teams outside of it. Despite its flaws, the NJSIAA is Frisch’s only avenue to competing in ice hockey as there is no yeshiva ice hockey league currently in existence.

Frisch is at a distinct disadvantage compared to other high schools. Coach Abecassis says that other schools “usually have a good amount of ‘travel’ players making up their teams,” compared to Frisch, which has only two. Frisch has plenty of talent, but the players “have not had over twenty games and thirty practices this season like some of these travel kids,” he adds. Despite this deficit, “the prospect of playing real hockey for their school is a tremendous privilege,” and the players “are extremely excited about it.”

Luckily, help is on the way. Coach Abecassis says that “there are many young kids that are now choosing to play ice hockey “because leagues are allowing them to miss games on Saturday, even scheduling those games to Saturday nights,” instead. Thanks to programs such as Englewood’s “Sunday Friendly” leagues, “there are more yeshiva kids playing now than ever before.” These kids are laying the groundwork for an eventual yeshiva ice hockey league, an exciting proposition for Jewish communities deprived of the sport for so long.

The team does not only represent the yeshiva community on the ice; it also represents its middot off of it. The team has volunteered its on-ice help with two Try Hockey for Free events run by the New York Rangers at Mackay Park, one last year and another this past October. At the two events, the players assisted children with putting on equipment and skating. The team has also participated in two Friendship Circle skating events, with another one set to occur in March. The help was especially valuable in this case, as, without the team, Friendship Circle wouldn’t have been able to run the event.

The new season of ice hockey is set to begin on November 29th, a Sunday, with a game against Edison starting at 5:15 p.m. at Mackay Park in Englewood.

Sushi Kaplan is a junior at West Orange High School. For more of Sushi’s writing, check out his blog at sushionsports.wordpress.com.

By Sushi Kaplan

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