NEWARK – “Cashing in” on their successful pizza bet with U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand from New York over which NHL hockey team – the Devils or the Rangers – would advance to the Stanley Cup finals, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg enjoyed pizza with players from the Hockey in Newark (HIN) youth hockey club at the Prudential Center on Monday.
At the start of the Devils versus Rangers playoff series leading into the Stanley Cup, the Senators representing the cross-river rivals entered into a simple bet: If the Rangers won, Senators Menendez and Lautenberg would buy the New York Senators pizza from a local New York pizza shop. If the Devils won, New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand would buy the New Jersey Senators pizza from a local New Jersey pizza shop.
On May 25, the Devils clinched the series in a 3-2 sudden-death overtime victory. After three games in the Stanley Cup finals, the Devils trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 in the series and need to win Wednesday night to avoid elimination.
Rather than having a pizza party in Washington, Menendez and Lautenberg celebrated the Devils’ victory by sharing their pizza winnings with real New Jersey hockey players from Hockey in Newark. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand pitched in for the pizzas from Queen Pizza in Newark.
“I doubt I’ve ever enjoyed pizza as much as I did today,” said Menendez. “Not only were we able to celebrate and cheer on the Devils in the Stanley Cup finals, by having this pizza party with the great young players from Hockey in Newark, we were able to bring attention to an inspiring local organization that’s helping kids become the best student-athletes they can be.”
“Hockey is making an incredible impact in Newark and across New Jersey” said Lautenberg. “While we cheer for the Devils in the Stanley Cup finals, these kids are learning important life lessons on and off the ice through this important youth hockey program.”
Jeff Vanderbeek, chairman and managing partner of the New Jersey Devils, said, “We are happy to host Senator Lautenberg, Senator Menendez and Hockey In Newark at Prudential Center for their winning bet from the Devils clinching the Eastern Conference championship. It means a lot to the children that the Senators would share this experience with them.”
Hockey In Newark was established in 2003 when two special needs teachers saw an opportunity to educate the youth of Newark through the sport of hockey in an underutilized facility. The Ironbound Recreation Center was a shell of its past with no youth programming within the city in 2003. Today, HIN has a lease with the city to run programming six days a week from October through March in the Ironbound Recreation Center which has gone through over $150,000 in renovations. The program has also expanded to area rinks, including Newark’s Prudential Center, in order to provide year round programming and new experiences for the youth of Newark.
Since its inception nine years ago, HIN has grown from ten participants and two coaches to over one hundred fifty active participants and twenty eight volunteer coaches. HIN’s free year round program, which requires participants to be Newark residents, targets youth ages 6-18 years old. Its education based programming supports academic achievement, good citizenship, and teamwork while using hockey as the “hook”.