NEWARK, NJ — With great power comes great responsibility.
captain (noun) cap·tain |ˈkap-tən | a military leader; the commander of a unit or a body of troops; one who leads or supervises such as a leader of a sports team
On Friday, Oct. 25, the New Jersey Devils, in association with RWJ Barnabas Health and JAG-One Physical Therapy, welcomed over 200 high school captains from over 100 teams to Prudential Center for the 14th Annual “Captains Night” in a celebration of grass roots ice hockey in the Garden State.
The marquee event, which signifies the start of 2019-20 NJSIAA high school season in New Jersey, continues to be among the most highly anticipated events of the year, state-wide.
“It is a true honor, honestly, being selected to come back here. It’s such an amazing experience, especially coming back after winning it last year — it gives me the chills,” Morris Knolls’ team captain Jason Moskowitz, who helped lead the Golden Eagles to the NJSIAA Public A crown last season, said. “Props to the New Jersey Devils — they do a lot for high school teams and we appreciate it a lot. This brings back so many good memories, I remember everything like it was yesterday.”
The team captains were treated to a special night of hockey beginning with an opening address from Devils’ alumnus Grant Marshall and Kenny Daneyko.
“You see all the kids here and you see the excitement — we all want to get back and get the hockey going again,” Marshall, a veteran of 11 NHL seasons who won Stanley Cups with the Devils and Dallas Stars, said. “For me, I was always excited about playing, that kid inside of me, it didn’t matter what level from my paperweight days as an 8 or 9-year old to playing as a professional and winning a Stanley Cup. The summer is over, we had a good summer, but it’s time to get back and we can’t wait to start playing hockey again.
“For these captains, Captains Night, the leadership, you want the guys to look up to you and follow your lead,” Marshall said. “Strong character — being the guy to help our your teammates, the guys next to you, that was the way I was brought up, the guy I wanted to be and I think these guys know and understand that — not just in the game but in real world, being a leader — they’re ahead of the game.”
Brothers Tom and Nikita Pryymak have won back-to-back NJSIAA titles, gearing up for a run at a third for Summit.
“It definitely looks cool out on the ice with all our different jerseys on,” Tom, who recorded a goal and an assist in the Hilltoppers’ triumph over Chatham, said. “Brings back a lot of memories being back here. It’s cool to walk behind the scenes, look around and walk out onto NHL ice, to go out there again in front of all these fans — it’s just a great experience.”
Robbie Greenleaf was part of Don Bosco Prep’s first state title in school history last winter when his Gordon Conference team defeated 13-time and defending state champion, Delbarton, 3-1, on March 4 at Prudential Center.
“We have a lot of shoes to fill this season — definitely looking to get back,” Greenleaf said. “Spent the summer in the weight room, looking to get a little bigger, looking to get ready for the season — we’re working towards that. We’re definitely looking forward to the season, it’s going to be a fun one.”
Kaitlin Skorzewski and Anna Bajak were on hand for Morristown-Beard, representing one of a number of girls teams in attendance including Princeton, Randolph, Summit, Westfield and Newark East Side.
“It’s really cool to see everybody who loves hockey in one area and to represent their schools in front of such a big crowd is amazing,” Skorzewski said. “It’s really inspiring. I can’t think of any other team doing it and being a part of it makes it 100 times better.”
“Captains Night,” which began in 2006, is a celebration of the beginning of the high school ice hockey season and represents the common hope amongst all participants to return to Prudential Center in March to compete for a State Championship.
In addition, the Devils sponsor the High School Player of the Month Program, presented by RWJBarnabas Health, and Jersey Sports Zone’s Top Five Goals of the Month. Recipients are invited to a Devils game featuring a pre-game meet-and-greet with a Devils player and dinner at Prudential Center Restaurant.