PVCG Hockey: A Retrospective

A look into the success of the past five years of the Cedar Grove and Passaic Valley cooperative hockey team

If you look back at Cedar Grove High School athletics from five years ago, you would find, as in years prior, the staple, well-known and well-loved sports to which both students and the community have devoted immense time and dedication. Sports such as football, basketball, and baseball have not only roots in the town and the school’s history, but also they have an incredible national following at the professional level through the NFL, NBA, and MLB. And yet through all those years, there was one influential sport — the fourth professional league to dominate the national sports scene — whose presence was sorely absent from the local athletic focus: ice hockey.

That was until around five years ago when it was announced that in the coming winter sports season hockey would finally a high school sport in Cedar Grove. But there was a catch, the new hockey program would not just be Cedar Grove’s team — it would be shared with nearby regional high school, Passaic Valley.

Such a cooperative did not just appear out of thin air. Gina LoPresti, whose sons Nick ‘18 and Alex ‘18 have played on the team since their freshman year, described the long process she went through to help create an ice hockey team for the boys in Cedar Grove interested in the sport. She first began conversations, around the time her sons left elementary school, with then-Superintendent Dr. Polles about the possibility of creating a co-op program for ice hockey. After gathering information about co-op sports programs, she presented them to Polles who then directed her to the Athletic Director Patricia Lynch. “During this time I involved other families who were very interested in supporting the idea of an ice hockey co-op.” She explained, “There was significant interest.”

But as the idea was gaining steam with the Board of Education and was being seriously considered, Lynch left the district and moved to Passaic Valley which, coincidentally, was also seeking to expand their hockey program. “The timing was perfect. The co-op was formed.” Gina LoPresti, finally, expressed gratitude toward Steve Ruggiero who coached the Verona-Glen Ridge co-op ice hockey team who, she explained, “was most instrumental in providing [her] with very helpful information about their long-time successful co-op.” And with this guidance, the new, two high school cooperative team was created.

Of course with such a unique team composition of high schoolers from four different towns, the players on the PVCG hockey team have had a fairly different experience than most other athletes have had with their respective sports. Team captain Alex LoPresti ‘18, who has played since the program began, elaborated on his experiences with the cooperative team since it began. “The only challenge going into freshman year was getting used to playing with kids we didn’t know,” however, he explained, “Once we got to know each other it was so fun and easy.”

LoPresti continued to express what it has been like playing for such an unorthodox team throughout high school. “It has definitely been unique because the people at Passaic Valley have been so supportive of the players at Cedar Grove, in games, off the ice.” He further explained the respect and close relationship held between the two schools through hockey. “Even after the season, [they put] my brother’s and my name on the sign in front of their school for making 1st team all league.”

But with a clear relationship being held between players on the ice, so too have fans from both schools grown close in cheering on the same team. An active and dedicated fan of the team, Karen Raum ‘18, explained, “After going to hockey games for three years, I’ve noticed the PV parents and other students are more than friendly, and the two schools always stand and cheer together.” She continued, “I have made friends both with people on the ice and with people in the stands that I probably wouldn’t have if the schools did not share a team. It almost seems like we are one school cheering on one hockey team.”

With five successful seasons on its back, the joint team is still in its relative infancy with many more years of students eager to play varsity hockey for their high school. But with a heap of vital senior players — the players who carried the program since its inception — leaving next year, the future of the team could still be up in the air. “We are graduating 11 seniors this year,” LoPresti explained, “So the next few years will be very different for the young guys.” With many players leaving, he expressed concern stating, “There aren’t many new incoming freshmen.” With this, LoPresti expressed about his sport and his team going forward, “I hope that there is more interest in future years.”

The PVCG hockey program has, in its five year run, done much more than might be visible on the surface. In the beginning, the prospect of this two-school team sought to give hockey players in CGHS the chance to play for their town and their school, an important venture for what had been an all but forgotten sport in Cedar Grove. But what came out of this program far exceeded that simple yet important goal it provided because it creates external benefits that have positively impacted both the school and the players immensely. For the students and parents in Cedar Grove, it gave everyone another team to root for, another way to cheer on the high school, the town, and the players who finally get to play the sport they love for them. But it is the hockey players who have truly benefited from the program the past five years. Not only do they get to play their sport for their school, they have been able to form a lasting connection between the two schools through the team, forming crosstown friendships beyond just teammates.

At the end of the day, the PVCG hockey team will serve as a success in the truest form for the athletics of Cedar Grove and Passaic Valley. It has and will continue to provide for and nurture a greater appreciation for hockey as a sport within the community and that value cannot be understated. The ice may be cold but the trail is set ablaze for many more great things from the PVCG hockey team for years to come.

Chris Krusberg
PVCG Hornets winning the Bronze Cup championship in the Big North Conference 2017