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Newark teens are first hockey players from high school to play in coll

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That’s understandable. But with hockey? In Newark — a city known for hoops and football? And in the Ironbound, where soccer reigns?

Yes, hockey. In Newark. A small group of kids showed up the first year, in 2006. Things took off soon afterward when the New Jersey Devils came to Newark. The NHL team gave Veltre and Ruppe, both special-education teachers, the boost and backing they needed not only to teach the sport, but also to develop a program that could feed talent to the high school team.

"Hockey in Newark" was up and running, and working. The high school team made the playoffs the last two years, after spending several seasons being awful and perhaps the worst team in the state. Kids who never played hockey in Newark were getting better and fans were coming to games.

This fairy tale, however, gets even better than winning. Ortero and Martinez, after four years in the program, are its first two players headed off to college in the fall to play. Naturally they have to try out, but Veltre, like them, is confident they will be on the ice when the first puck drops. So, it’s William Paterson University for Ortero and the New Jersey Institute of Technology for Martinez.

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