A Cold Day in Hell at the Rock: Day 3 Recap

Written by Peter Quartuccio

With hundreds of miles traveled, dozens of hours spent, and mere minutes of sleep obtained, ESNJ embarked on their final day of the 54-in-54 project on Sunday morning. Snow remained on the ground, but thankfully had stopped falling by the time we started the day. While the precipitation halted, the cold did not, as we braved an absolutely frigid Ocean Ice Palace in Brick, where breath billowed out so thick that it was as if there was a blazing fire in our lungs. We were rewarded for our efforts, however, with a game of Special Needs hockey between the New Jersey Dare Devils and Brick’s start-up Special Needs team, the first such game of our journey. We went on to visit rinks in Farmingdale, Middletown, and Bridges Old and Wood (Old Bridge and Woodbridge, respectively), along with the Red Bank Armory rink, which was without question one of the prettiest of the trip. The owner of the Red Bank Armory, Doug Brooks, was particularly warm and accommodating to us, and seemed genuinely thankful for being able to work with ESNJ. There was already a disabled hockey event on the schedule at the Woodbridge Community Center. Helpful and welcoming, their staff is heavily involved with disabled hockey in the area.

Perhaps the single most significant development of the day was the interaction with the Beacon Hill Country Club in Summit, NJ. The club initially okayed our visit, but early on in the day, we got word that they had retracted their invitation. We decided to take the trip anyway, and when we got there, a friendly club representative greeted us cordially but nevertheless reiterated the manager’s withdrawal. Co-founder Jon Schwartz, rather than growing angry or frustrated, kept calm, asking the representative if he or the club manager knew what EveryBODY Skates was all about. When the former responded to the negative, Jon explained to him ESNJ’s mission and the point behind 54-in-54, and asked him to call the manager so that he could relay the message. After a brief conversation, the representative came to us with the news that the club manager rescinded his retraction, and Kudos to Jon for keeping his cool, and kudos too to the club representative, who was positive and open throughout the difficult process.

Our day—and our journey—ended with a trip to the Prudential Center. It may be home to Devils, but the warmth provided by both the facility and the staff was a delightful respite from the bitterly cold weather we encountered all weekend. Our seats were fantastic, and during the 2nd period, we were honored by the Devils’ public address announcer and put up on the big screen, for which we received a hearty applause from the fans in attendance. The game ended in a disappointing 3-2 Devils defeat, but it did not dampen the spirits of the EveryBODY Skates New Jersey team.

As we retrieved our bags from the vans, I could sense a slight sadness in the group that could be seen through the cracks of triumph and relief. I, for one, certainly felt it. I grew to really enjoy the company of those in my group, and will miss the camaraderie, as Jon termed it, we shared.

Cheers to Jon and Andrew Schwartz for their vision, their commitment, and their dedication to this project. Truly, 54-in-54 was an utter success, and a genuine achievement.


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Blizzards and Roundabouts and Zambonis, Oh My!: Day Two Recap

Written by Peter Quartuccio

As the cold front continued to freeze every living thing in New Jersey, ESNJ continued to rack up the miles on its 54-in-54 trek across the state to promote awareness of disabled hockey.  Directions were less of an issue on Saturday, thanks in large part to photographer Carter Farmer’s stint as Magellan and Tim Jones’ creative brand of navigational techniques, which included no less than 4 “roundabouts.”  Miraculously, these glorified u-turns put us exactly where we needed to be, proving Tim to be as versatile a navigator as he is a player. 

Saturday was certainly less hectic, but still packed with events.  EveryBODY Skates was treated with a suite and recognized during the Flyers versus Islanders game at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center.  (The Flyers won the game.  Coincidence?)  Afterwards, Group A’s 4 representatives of disabled hockey—Joe Bowser, Josh Pauls, Mike Wonoski, and the aforementioned Jones—participated in a shoot-around with a Bantam hockey team in Pennsauken, whose goalie looked overmatched against Joe and Mike.  We then headed to Canlan Ice Sports Vineland in Vineland NJ, and as we were well ahead of schedule, the guys decided to have an impromptu game with local disabled hockey players.  The game was a great watch, with all of the athletes putting on quite a show for those in attendance.  After nearly an hour of non-stop hockey, we decided to hit the road.  Little did we know that as the game was going on, Mother Nature decided to lower the boom on us in the form of a heavy snow storm.  The blizzard threatened to derail our trip, as accumulations were expected to reach and even exceed 8 inches.  Group A, however, was undaunted by the overwhelming task ahead of them—approximately 50 miles to the Flyers’ Skate Zone in Atlantic City, where we were taught the intricacies of the zamboni, and another 50 miles on top of that to our hotel in Toms River—and refused to allow crummy conditions to ruin our mission.  After the leaving the final rink, everyone partook in some much needed eats at TGIFriday’s (or “Thank God It’s Food,” as it was called by a starving Schwartz, who handled the truly treacherous weather remarkably well).

Sunday is the final day of 54-in-54, and includes trips to Brick, Red Bank, Summit, and to The Rock in Newark, the last of which will mark the end of our journey.  EveryBODY Skates will be honored once again during the Devils versus Kings game at the Prudential Center, providing the perfect capper to a groundbreaking weekend.

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Neither freezing cold, nor dysfunctional GPS, nor flood of publicity stays ESNJ from the swift completion of their appointed rounds: Day One Recap.

Written by Peter Quartuccio

After a rough start, featuring scrambled directions, broken pavement, and maddeningly inconsistent navigational devices, the first day of EveryBODY Skates New Jersey’s 54-in-54 went relatively smoothly.  That is, as smoothly as traveling to over 20 ice rinks over of 8 hours can go, of course.  And factoring in the u-turns, in-depth phone interviews with reporters, and requests to passersby for directions, the word “smoothly” can be used loosely.   All things considered, however, we made it to our hotel rooms having been recognized by many spectators and having received many notifications news coverage.

Friday was a frenzied affair—it started in the heart of midtown Manhattan at the NHL Store and ended at a Rutgers versus Binghamton hockey game in Somerset, New Jersey (well, technically at an IHOP in Somerset, NJ)—but it was one that ended up being even more exciting than it was busy.  Group A, which was comprised of Special Needs hockey player Brian Nadolske, Deaf and Hearing Impaired hockey player Mike Wonoski, Standing Amputee hockey player Joe Bowser, and Sled Hockey Paralympian Tim Jones, along with Wheelchair Sports Federation photographer Carter Farmer, EveryBODY Skates co-founder Jon Schwartz, and myself, Wheelchair Sports Federation journalist Peter Quartuccio, blazed through a frigid New Jersey, stopping at every ice rink along the way.

A crowd of children and adults at the Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain in West Orange grew both in number and in interest as Tim, Mike, Brian, and Joe performed a demo of disabled hockey.  It was clear they were enthralled and impressed, and the guys gave them good reason to be so, evincing grace and skill and a palpable sense of enjoyment.  An undisputed highlight of the day was when all the members of the group visited the Rutgers’ team locker room shortly before their game against Binghamton.  After Jon gave a brief description of the 54-in-54 project, and after Joe offered some words of encouragement (“kick some ass” I believe it was), Brian offered his own nugget of wisdom: “Use that body!”  That was his rallying cry, shouting it several times before he left the locker room.  He was not finished, however: he yelled it again at almost every Rutgers player as they took the ice, imploring each and every one of them to “Use that body,” oftentimes pairing it with a slap on the back.   Everyone got a kick out of it, and Rutgers heeded Brian’s advice.

Saturday looks to be far less hectic, but no less exciting.  The day’s schedule of events includes visits to the Flyers Skate Zone in Atlantic City, to the Baker Rink in Princeton, and to the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA for a Flyers versus Islanders game, at which our team will be recognized.  If you plan on being in the Garden State on Saturday, please feel free and welcome to stop by: you will not be disappointed.

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NHL Hosting Kickoff Event for ESNJ @NHL Store on Jan. 29, 10am!

Event is FREE & open to public! Meet the ESNJ Athletes, ESPN’s EJ HRADEK & NHL Dep. Commisioner BILL DALY as they help launch ESNJ @NHL Powered by Reebok Store; 1185 Ave of the Americas; NY, NY)

20% of NHL Store proceeds 9am-12pm that day to go to ESNJ through American Special Hockey Association!



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NJ Devils to Honor ESNJ on Jan 31!

Read more at the Devils website: http://devils.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=59886#


We’ve secured a special group rate of $49/seat, which includes a $10 food voucher.

Get your tickets TODAY by emailing pam@golub-isabel.com


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Please CLICK ON THE BLUE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT and sign our petition.

Help us convince New Jersey’s ice rinks to allocate one hour of ice time per week, in season, to Disabled Hockey.


During Hockey Weekend Across America, January 29-31, 2010, a group of disabled athletes will visit all 54 New Jersey ice rinks in just 54 hours on a mission to raise awareness and change perceptions. The group includes disabled hockey players of all kinds and is led by a pair of brothers from New Jersey who each coach disabled teams in the area.


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Special needs children and adults find salvage in hockey


Read a “Letter To The Editor” we submitted to the Record (Hackensack, NJ) on Nov. 26, 2009:

The Record editorial on Nov. 19, “Adults with Autism,” brought needed attention to the wave of autistic kids growing into adulthood in New Jersey. While autism’s prevalence among kids in our state is staggering, and sadly leads the nation, there’s no doubting that the population of adults with autism is exploding throughout the state.

According to the Record, “they still need help, from housing to education to health care. But help has not been easy to get. Two bills that will be introduced next week would begin to change that.”

Today’s column by Ahmed Soliman flags the importance of integration of individuals with special needs, not only within our schools, but also within our community as well.

Three years ago this week, Newsweek magazine featured a cover story: “Growing Up with Autism.” The piece looked at how families are coping as their autistic children reach young adulthood and how the goals of the autism activist movement have evolved as the disorder continues to challenge science.

The issue featured a young adult, Danny Boronat, on its cover. Danny is autistic. He lives in New Jersey. And he’s been playing hockey since he was a child in a special program that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities.

The program is one of several across the state that pairs individuals with special needs with neuro-typical coaches and youth hockey players with a yearning to give back to their communities and the sport they love.

While we talk about the need for quality medical and mental health care programs and about the importance of funding programs to help autistic adults develop critical life skills, there are two glaring omissions in this discussion: physical fitness and socialization.

Lest we forget that there is higher incidence of obesity among the approximately 1 million disabled New Jerseyans, including those on the autistic spectrum, leading to other physical and mental health issues. Autistic children and adults also need programs that stimulate active lifestyles and foster desirable personal characteristics such as accountability and learning how to work together.

The fact is that habitual physical activity and team sports – which enhance socialization and promote accountability – are missing components in the lives of most of New Jersey’s autistic community.

That’s why “special hockey,” for children and adults with developmental disabilities, is the fastest growing form of disabled hockey. Special Hockey teams continue to sprout up all over this state from Hackensack and West Orange to Woodbridge and Brick Township.

Despite the sport’s often tarnished image, hockey provides opportunities for those on the autistic spectrum to find fitness, fun and a sense of community in a way that is both safe and rewarding.

Special hockey programs enrich local communities, provide volunteer opportunities and are self sustaining. The main challenge these programs face is access to regular ice time each week during the season. Ice time is nearly impossible to get because rinks typically give dibs to house, travel league and high school programs.

With only 54 rinks in the entire state, it’s difficult to convince these business owners to set aside ice slots for new programs, especially ones without a bankroll. What rinks don’t realize is that special hockey programs can pay their own way. They just need a chance to grow, a small commitment from the rink and little support from the community.

To help bring this message to rinks and community leaders statewide, a group of special hockey players – along with other physically disabled hockey players – will embark on an incredible journey to visit all 54 rinks in New Jersey in just 54 hours during Hockey Across America Weekend, January 29-31, just prior to the Winter Olympics.

The effort is entitled “EveryBODY Skates New Jersey.” Its mission is to encourage local rink owners and management to set aside one hour of ice time per week, in season, for hockey programs that serve autistic children and adults.

This record-setting journey is being led by my brother, Andrew, and I. We each coach a disabled hockey team in the area and are passionate about making team sports and physical fitness opportunities available to disabled people all over the state.

Soliman writes: “We can express our gratitude by assisting organizations that are working to improve the lives of students with special needs.”

Those who share our belief that rinks and county and municipal governments should consider setting aside just one hour a week for disabled hockey, can show their support by joining our group on Facebook or by following us at Twitter: @54in54.

Jon Schwartz resides in Park Ridge, is the head coach of the NJ Dare Devils Special Hockey team, board member of the American Special Hockey Association and a founder of EveryBODY Skates New Jersey.


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