NHL Lockout: New Jersey Devils Lend Prudential Center to Local High School Team

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IDecember 5, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 08:  Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker (L),  President and Chairman Devils Arena Entertainment Jeff Vanderbeek (C), and Chairman and CEO Prudential Financial Art Ryan hold a Devils jersey presented to Ryan during the news conference naming the Prudential Center as the new home of the New Jersey Devils on January 8, 2007 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images for the NHL)
Andy Marlin/Getty Images

The NHL lockout may have soured the feelings of hockey fans across the continent, but it hasn't dampened the benevolent spirit of New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek.  

The Devils owner has reached out to help save the hockey season for Newark East Side High School, the only public inner-city high school hockey team in the state, by lending them the ice at the Prudential Center to the team during the lockout.

The East Side hockey team usually plays at the Ironbound Recreation Center, but their rink was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The Devils did the same thing last year, when the rink was damaged by the effects of Hurricane Irene.

Ever since the Devils have moved to Newark, Vanderbeek has been a champion of promoting hockey in New Jersey's biggest city.  

He has supported a grassroots effort with the city's youth through a program called Hockey in Newark, which was founded by East Side coaches Keith Veltre and Dennis Ruppe.  

With the backing of the Devils and the tireless efforts of Veltre and Ruppe, Hockey in Newark has grown from a fledgling program with just five kids enrolled in 2003 to a program of more than 100 kids today.

In an article by David Giambusso on nj.com, Vanderbeek said he hopes that one day Hockey in Newark could produce a first-round pick in the NHL draft.

But for now, Vanderbeek will settle for saving the local high school team's season.

If Vanderbeek hadn't stepped in to offer the Prudential Center, the East Side Red Raiders would have faced a situation where the team had no venue to practice or host home games. They were facing the prospect of canceling the season.  

Every team in the "big four" American professional sports scene has participated in numerous charity and community-service projects throughout the years.  It's easy enough to send players or money to support different causes.  

However, how often do you hear of a team offering their home facility to a team in need?

Hockey in Newark is a program that Vanderbeek could easily support from the comfort of his owner's box without really getting involved.  

Instead, he has taken a hands-on approach and has shown true initiative in contributing to the revival of the sport in the city.

Many of the high school hockey players at Newark East Side came up through the Hockey in Newark program that Vanderbeek has been championing for nearly a decade.  

It's great to see that even in a time when tremendous discord is surrounding the sport, that the owner continues to stand behind the players the program has developed.

Even if Vanderbeek doesn't have direct involvement in Newark East Side High School, he has a vested interest in the children who have been involved in Hockey in Newark, many of whom go on to play at Newark East Side.