The 2017-18 high school hockey season is still a ways off, but some special things are in the works for the 60th year of league competition in the Garden State.
For starters, a number of teams around the state hope to recognize the 100th anniversary of the NHL, which is December 19. On Dec. 19, 1917, the NHL consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Arenas, Montreal Wanderers and the Ottawa Senators (not the current franchise).
The North Jersey Scholastic Hockey League got going in the winter of 1958-59, and the schools included West Orange, Montclair, Livingston, Morris Hills and Morristown-Beard. Livingston earned the initial Gordon Cup crown in 1959, and was a state powerhouse through the early 1980s.
On Monday, Dec. 18, both West Orange and Livingston will be involved in games at Codey Arena in West Orange. On that same date, Morristown-Beard will play host to St. Augustine at Twin Oaks Arena. Then, on Dec. 20, Montclair will meet Verona/Glen Ridge at Clary Anderson Arena in Montclair. Finally, on Dec. 21, Morris Hills will travel to Newark to face East Side at the Prudential Center annex.
“I think it will be great to have high school teams in our state celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NHL,” said Steve Ruggiero, the manager at Codey Arena. “High School hockey in our state has come a long way since the early days of league play.”
Pat Verney, the head coach at Montclair, who starred at Hudson Catholic in the late 1990s, suggests that a special program could be made up which spotlights the original five squads in the old North Jersey Scholastic League.
“All these schools have a rich tradition in the sport,” said Verney, a top scorer in his day.
For West Orange, the top moment on the ice came in the winter of 1961 when John Hooper’s team gained a 2-2 tie against a strong Montclair squad in the Gordon Cup final. Goalie Al Giordano was a key for West Orange.
Along with Verney, the head coaches at schools who competed in league play back in 1958-59, include Ed Scafidi at West Orange, Dave Conklin at Livingston, Sam DeMarco at Morris Hills and Randy Velischek, who suited up for the New Jersey Devils in the late 1980s, at Morristown-Beard.
Ed Purdy, a graduate of WOHS in the early 1960s, led Livingston to state titles in 1980 and 1982. The 1980 state final at South Mountain (now) Codey Arena, is regarded by many people as the top game in state history. Sophomore forward Joe Tracy scored a short-handed goal in OT to give Livingston a dramatic 1-0 victory over heavily favored Brick. In his freshman campaign, Tracy played at Seton Hall Prep when the school was located in South Orange.
ICE CHIPS – Morris Hills forward Randy Deresky was the state’s top player in the 1960s… Conklin played in Livingston’s 1981 Gordon Cup championship club… Morristown-Beard, Montclair and Livingston have all won state titles…
This winter, Randolph’s Rich McLaughlin and Delbarton’s Bruce Shatel should reach the 400 win plateau. Delbarton, Brick, CBA and Randolph have been the top programs in New Jersey… Ruggiero was a successful coach at Verona/Glen Ridge… On Dec. 19, SHP will face Delbarton at Aspen Arena. Also on that day, Randolph meets Morris Knolls at Mennen Arena… Brick’s Bob Auriemma retired in the summer, with a state record 730 wins.