Sunday, April 27, 2014

Beautiful Days at Ramblewood: Good Food, Good Beverages for a Good Cause


Let’s not mince words, Mother Nature is a Sled Hockey fan. She must be since she has provided spectacular weather for the Wings of Steel Golf Tournament at Ramblewood Country Club, every year for the last seven years. 

This event was born of need. See below for the history of Wings of Steel Golf Tournament at Ramblewood.

For now, please enjoy this recap of another successful golf outing and the converging of kindness with the relish of a good day of golf.


 As in the past seven years, the numbers of participants have never been a problem. This year presented a problem in that the registration filled up early and we had the distinct issue of actually being overbooked and had to turn away players.

The day starts off with a morning 50/50 drawing while the players register and enjoy a hoagie lunch. This year’s morning 50/50 generated a kitty of $940, of which the winner “Sean” generously donated back his winnings. Thank you, Sean.


After the players are called to their carts, the course ranger announces the scramble instructions and gets the game started.

While on the golf course, players are attended to by our beverage cart hostesses. This year we found the beverages were extra cold and the thoughtfulness of a lid for the cups was especially appreciated by those driving golf carts.


Found on the course are special auction items and hole prizes. This year there were 2 signed NHL hockey sticks, strategically placed on the course.


Prizes for ‘closest to the pin’ and best score under par are awarded. This year there was a tie between 2 teams at 12 under Par! The tie-breaker was determined by how each team did on the #1 handicap hole. The winners birdied that hole.




The afternoon/dinner time 50/50 generated a kitty of $970 of which the winner Sue Rudley also donated back her winnings! Thank you, Sue!

Chinese Auction Baskets
Chinese Auction: Every team parent commits to providing at least one basket valued at least $50. This year there was a couple Lottery baskets, Dinner and a Show/Night Out, Family games, and Weekend excursions to different locations.

Silent Auction Table
Silent Auction: A variety of authentic sports memorabilia awarded to the highest bidder signed on the bid sheet.

Live Auction items
Live auction: This year we had the distinct opportunity to offer a pair of autographed point shoes from a lead ballerina of the New York Ballet Company. While it might seem contrary to display such an item among an array of autographed hockey jerseys, think about the energy and strength needed to perform dance, especially ballet. It was a fitting item and a suitable auction price.

The Crosby did sell, but it went ‘silently’ to someone who wished to remain anonymous.

Brian Startare
Since the very first event the MC has been Brian Startare who was otherwise committed this year to broadcasting responsibilities because of the Flyers/Rangers game schedule.
Matt Lombardo

At the eleventh hour, Brian enlisted Matt Lombardo who manned up and helped us help our guests part with some of their hard earned cash in the spirit of giving for an excellent cause. Thank you, Matt, for stepping up at the last minute. We hope you will continue to be part of the Wings of Steel family.


All in all, it was a very good day for a fundraiser. There is never a ‘low’ point to this event. However, the Wings held a moment of silence for a beloved team member, Jessica Shaw, who died within days of last year’s event. Jess suddenly became critically ill and passed away that very weekend. Her bubbly personality continues to be missed, and it was in her memory that the dinner hour was kicked off.



About the Wings of Steel Golf Tournament:

 For many years ice time at the Skate Zone in Voorhees was generously donated to the Wings of Steel for practice and game time. Players are provided equipment at no cost to them or their family and equipment was and continues to be maintained by the volunteer labor of Dennis Senk. As the Wings of Steel developed and continued to be a competitive entity within the area division of sled hockey competition, so goes the economy. Ice time and game time could no longer be a viable contribution by the Skate Zone ownership and administration. The Wings of Steel organization was informed they would have to pay an annual fee for ice time comparable to able bodied teams.

To supplement the team’s meager coffers, team moms and dads often pushed 50/50’s at games and would stage bake sales and coin tosses. Any profit from these campaigns could barely scratch the surface for the cost of maintenance and uniform outfitting, let alone the prohibitive cost of ice time. Hockey is not an inexpensive activity. Couple that fact with the extra factor of this sport’s equipment geared towards the special needs population, and it soon becomes clear that bake sales and coin tosses are not going to generate viable revenue. The idea to hold a fundraiser was the last chance to hopefully generate enough cash to keep the Wings of Steel operating and to afford the cost of ice time.

Ramblewood Country Club has been a steadfast supporter since the inception of this event. They have helped the club by allowing the tournament to always kick off the last Friday in April, making it a day our participants plan for in advance. Especially of note is that the Ramblewood staff is always gracious and helpful in any way to make this day a success for the kids who play in the Wings of Steel Sled hockey team.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 3: Wings Fall in Disabled Festival Finale – Cherry Picking Taints the Pure

The Virtua Wings of Steel closed out the weekend long 2014 USA Disabled Hockey Festival, losing to the Polar Express in the finale on Sunday after solidly defeating them in the bracket opener on Friday.

Despite the loss the Wings had a great time, welcomed a new member to the Wings family in goalie Iron Mike Reiner along with his parents Paula and Bill and the team took over the Marriott Courtyard in Marlborough, setting a new team record by eating 13 pizzas for lunch in one sitting.

Although the team was disappointed they did not win the tournament, the cards were stacked somewhat against them. Earlier in the week they were moved up in youth brackets from Class C to Class B, as one team dropped out and we were asked to move up.
Clearly, from the start of the Tournament, the Wings might have been smaller in stature, but they are unmatched in game-face and heart, led by the ‘Beast’, Robert Vettese. 

Despite his bantam size the Beast will take on any player and won’t back down. As evidenced from our tough 3-2 loss on Saturday night the Beast got into a little shoving match with an opposing player twice his size and refused to back down even as he was leaving the ice, ending in nothing more than a little trash talk. Heart is something you cannot teach, it’s a trait you’re born with and the Beast has it.
To the Wings' credit they should have played in the C class but they showed up to compete and steadfastly played their hardest each game.

Another issue to consider is that the Wings were the only “pure” team in this bracket, meaning the others were combined teams stacked with All-Star players from various regions and divisions. 
Fair? I think not. So, to me the Wings were the class of the tournament, a fierce company of competitors of different abilities, skating shoulder to shoulder in their sleds.

It would be remiss to not end with kudos to our new goalie. Iron Mike was in a developmental program and had never played goal in a game. Mike actually just started practicing 3 weeks ago. How awesome is that?!?! To get his first win, in his very first start, against an All-Star team, in a national tournament, that’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of.

 Notes: Hesham ‘E’ Nassar led the Wings with four goals in the Tournament, his best performance of the season. Wings can use that kind of offense next season.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 2, Disabled Hockey Festival: Wings’ Long Saturday Ends With a Tough Loss

After opening the Disabled Hockey Festival with a win, the Wings had a tough Saturday losing in an early game to the Johnstown Sitting Bulls and then played against the Hornets from Chicago and suffered a 3-2 defeat. The Wings will now play for third place against the Sled Wings from Grand Rapids Michigan. In the Chicago game the Hornets jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Wings fought back on goals by Hesham ‘E’ Nassar and Robert, the ‘Beast’ Vettese to get within 3-2. With new Wings goalie Iron Mike Reiner stopping everything thrown at him over the next two periods the Wings cut into the lead, but could not get the equalizer.

Wings forward Garret-G-man-Goebel broke in with Hesham late in the second period and after G Man was stoned, Hesham was there to put home the rebound and give the Wings some new life at 3-1. Moments later the Beast had the puck along the boards and ripped a shot on the ice and into the net to bring the Wings to within one goal. But the Hornets’ defense tightened and did not allow the tying goal.

The Beast

Notes: Iron Mike made several big saves throughout the last two periods, but one in particular stands out when he batted the puck out of the air with the puck ticketed for the top corner.

Tomorrow will rap up the weekend celebrating different abilities and Hockey, here at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Special thanks to Mike Costantino for his fair and unbiased reporting.



Friday, April 11, 2014

The Wings of Steel Take off in Marlborough

Whether a person has disability and different ability is a matter of perception. At the 2014 USA Disabled Hockey Festival, there are various brackets of teams playing in ice hockey tournaments according to their different abilities. Participating in this tournament are deaf teams, Wounded Warriors, College level sled teams, youth teams and standing amputees. What you learn from attending these tournaments is that Hockey is Hockey is Hockey. Like anything else in life, if you want it bad enough, find a way to do it, and so, these athletes show you how it’s done.

You might have read about Sled Hockey here.
 Our sled hockey team named The Wings of Steel from South Jersey competed today against the Sled Wings sled hockey team from Grand Rapids in the 2014 USA Disabled Hockey Festival, Youth Sled Division B.

The game had a slightly late start because the teams scheduled in the prior game time slot were still playing on the ice, the Standing Amputee/Warriors, adults who sustained life altering injuries in service to our country. I’ll write more in another post about these inspiring athletes who let nothing stand in the way of competing for the love of the sport of ice hockey. But here’s a preview picture, they had a one-armed goalie!

Back to the Wings of Steel/Sled Wings...Here’s the game recap, courtesy of Mike Costantino, who regularly writes at for the South Jersey Ice Hockey School League 
Hesham Nassar scored three goals and Mike Mauger added a goal plus 3 assists to lead the Wings of Steel to a 5-2 win in the opening round of the 2014 USA Disabled Hockey Festival in Marlborough Massachusetts, against a much bigger (in size) team called the Polar Express, a combined team.
The Wings of Steel regular goalie has aged-out (18 years old) and was unable to compete in this tournament but were very fortunate to recruit a goalie, named Mike Reiner, and he was outstanding from the very beginning as his first save of the game was stopping a breakaway early in the first period.
Hesham, or “E” as he is known in the locker room, put the Wings up 1-0 after Mauger hit the post. E was there to put home the rebound and the Wings led midway through the first period. Mauger and E would team up again later in the period for a 2-0 lead.

When playing with a new goalie for the first time, your defense needs to communicate and the forwards need to back check more. Led by Captain Steve Potter, along with Mauger, aka Buddha, who played both ways the whole game, this was a team effort, second to none. And when there was a breakdown, Reiner was there to shut the door.
After E completed his hat trick midway through the second period to put the Wings up 3-0, with the period winding down, the Express finally broke through to cut the lead to 3-1 late in the period, but the highlight in that period came in the final 30 seconds when JoJo Costa would score her first career league goal. When asked after the game how exciting it was, scoring her first goal at the USA Hockey Fest, she responded, “It was cool.”
Leading 4-1 and with Reiner stopping everything thrown at him the Wings were in control. Mauger had a penalty called on him and the Express capitalized to cut the lead to 4-2.
Determined to get that goal back, Buddha stole the puck in the corner and stick handled it to the top of the circle and lifted a shot into the top corner to ice the game at 5-2.
The Wings of Steel will need a good night’s sleep as they play two games tomorrow, Pennsylvania’s Sitting Bulls in the morning and the Chicago Hornets later at 5:50 p.m. Tonight they will party with their new friend, Mike Reiner, a goalie with a promising future in Sled Hockey.
Note: The Sled Wings forward tried getting our Captain Potter off his game and mistakenly dropped his sticks and gloves...luckily for the Sled Wings kid, Potter was in no mood to spar, or we’d be talking knockout.
ALSO of NOTE: This was Mike Reiner’s first win as a Goalie, a real indication of great things for his career as a goalie. Now if we can just get him to visit us on weekends in New Jersey starting in September next year, all would be right in Coach Valentine’s world.