The Jewish Link and Drink Up would like to recognize 11-year-old Jack Solomon as this week’s Sportstar of the Week. The fifth grader at the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School and Nefesh Yehudi Academy in East Brunswick is an avid reader of The Jewish Link sports section and quite the athlete. After picking up a championship trophy at Camp Dovid, Jack returned to Edison and his first love, ice hockey, where he plays for Proskate’s Jr Stars ice hockey team. Previously, Jack has played in the NY Rangers Rookie league which afforded him the opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden and be coached in clinics by such Rangers as Brian Mullen, Colton Orr and Adam Graves. When asked about Jack, Coach Scott Buzney of Proskate J. Stars told The Jewish Link, “Jack has emerged in the Jr. Stars Hockey League as a talented forward who has led his team in points in their brief winter season. Jack is a fast and smart player, but most importantly is a great leader to his teammates!”
Jack, mazel tov on being recognized as Sportstar of the Week, and happy 11th birthday. Who is your role model and why?
My grandparents are my biggest supporters, aside from my parents. They encourage me to go after what I love and practice, practice, practice. My zeide inspires me by telling me of when he played basketball in his youth and that talent is one thing, but you need to hone your skills to reach the next level. My grandma and zeide always ask about my drills more than my games because without the stickhandling and skating, it doesn’t matter. They give me the tools to make that happen. Also, my dad’s Canadian goalie friend, Neer (not far) Even-Hen always talks strategy with me from a goalie’s perspective; how to outsmart a goalie. These people teach me what’s important about the sport I love so I am always looking to them for advice and inspiration.
What is your favorite sport and why?
My favorite sport is ice hockey which came to me by accident. My first summer at Camp Nesher in 2019 was awesome and I came home with goals of being on the Nesher roller hockey team. My mom went to look for clinics or leagues in roller hockey and came upon the NY Rangers Learn To Play ice hockey program and I was hooked.
What is your greatest sports accomplishment?
As part of the NY Rangers Rookie League I was invited to come to Madison Square Garden to play on the ice. I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there, there were clinics being run by current and retired Rangers. I got to play alongside Brian Mullen, Colton Orr and meet Adam Graves. I even scored a goal on the ice and my mom, grandma, zeide, two younger brothers and sister shouted for me. It was a great feeling.
Who is your favorite professional athlete and why?
Artemi Panarin of the NY Rangers. He was an undrafted player who has worked his way up to alternate captain. Yes, he scores lots of goals, but he has more assists than personal goals, echoing what my abba tells me in my pre-game rides to the rink.
What is your pregame routine?
My games are Sunday mornings, so Saturday night I try to get a good night’s rest, unless there is a hockey game on TV. I wake up, eat a healthy breakfast and head to the basement to do a couple stickhandling drills on my Superdeker, then I stretch and suit up for the game. On the drive to the rink, my abba always gives me a pep talk. He reminds me that even though it is always fun to score, hockey is a team sport.
What is your earliest sports memory?
I joined Rovers Soccer when I was 4. I was so excited to get an actual jersey and be part of something bigger than me. It was my first team. NJ Soccer Hall of Famer Coach Spencer Rockman runs the program and he taught me that the most important part of playing sports is to have fun and work together. That is a lesson I try to remember in every sport I play.
What is your weirdest sports memory?
Two Pesachs ago my family went to Florida and we went to a Florida Panthers vs. San Jose Sharks game. I have seen people throw hats on the ice after a hat trick but I was not prepared for the Panthers’ minhag. For each goal the fans through plastic rats on the ice. We were not completely sure our eyes were seeing it correctly, but that was the case. I have never seen that before, and it makes me curious about other regional minhagim.
What is your favorite sports memory?
When I went to my first live sports event with my abba. We saw the NY Giants play the Houston Texans and our seats were front row on the 50 yard line. The Giants won their first victory of the season. I loved being so close to the action and didn’t realize that not everyone had the same point of view as me. The crowd cheering, being close to the players, I knew I needed to be part of something like this.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are not playing sports?
When I am not playing sports, I love to hang out with my friends, though unfortunately recently that has been virtually. I transformed our basement into a hockey training zone for my siblings, Gabriel, Natie and Adela so we can all play and practice together. I also love learning about sports history. Most recently for school we had to pick someone to research for Black History Month. I chose Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the NHL. He not only broke the color barrier, but his greatest accomplishment is that he is National Hockey League’s director of Youth Development and Ambassador for NHL diversity. He encourages all kids that no matter your race, religion or gender, they can have fun with hockey. He is still working for the NHL as an ambassador and is 85.
What is the best thing about being a Sportstar?
The best thing about being a Sportstar is that now I know that ANYONE can be a role model. When my siblings see my picture in The Jewish Link maybe they will see me as a role model. I try to be a great big brother, but being the Sportstar of the Week will give me some “street cred” in my house.
The Drink Up Jewish Link Sportstar of the Week will receive a 5% discount on their next order @Drink Up, order with https://forms.gle/k8cjADWpMne9bPed7 or message Steve Gutlove 201 578 7425. Please send nominees for an upcoming Drink Up Jewish Link Sportstar of the Week to [email protected]