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NJ coach wins Messier's Youth Leadership Award

Tuesday, 06.7.2011 / 10:29 AM ET / News
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NJ coach wins Messier\'s Youth Leadership Award
Mark Messier with Alex DePalma.
BOSTON – Former NHL great Mark Messier took to the media podium at the TD Banknorth Garden prior to Game 3 to announce the 2011 recipient of the The Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award.

Messier also named the three finalists – Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom and Shane Doan – for the 2011 NHL Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The Youth Leadership Award, created to reward youth hockey players or mentors for their leadership and contributions to youth sports or education, receives nominations from across the United States and Canada.

"It's an exciting day for the National Hockey League and Bridgestone to announce the winner of The Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award. We take great pride in acknowledging the people in our community who do great work for the game of hockey, for our grassroots level of kids.

"This is one of the most important aspects for our children: provide good leadership and coaching and good mentorship. The winner this year has done everything beyond the call of duty – a tremendous asset to our game of hockey. We can use hockey as a metaphor for life. The leadership by is truly inspiring to us all for the many years he has reached out to our kids."

The award, which includes a $5,000 grant from Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations was presented to Brick Township, N.J.–based coach Alex DePalma, who founded the Brick Stars Challenger Ice Hockey program which enables special needs children experience the joy, competition and teamwork that are such unique parts of playing hockey.

DePalma is also the New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL) coaching director, USA Hockey ADM representative for the Atlantic District and an instructor with the USA Hockey coaching program. 

DePalma instills in his players the values of fair play, hard work and the importance of giving back to the community. Additionally, USA Hockey has previously recognized DePalma with numerous appointments, including 2009 Atlantic District Associate Coach in Chief and a five-year-running Outstanding Service Award.

"He's been working so hard for so many years unselfishly," DePalma's wife, Carrie, told

She is the catalyst to the award.

"I just thought it was the right time to submit the essay," she said about one of the award's main criteria. "I had it in my heart that he would win. It's such an honor because he so respects Mark.

"When she called me at work," said her euphoric hubby, "she was crying and saying, 'You won.' I thought she meant the lottery, but this is actually better. Guys like us do this out of passion and love – no expectations to be rewarded."

Messier also offered insight about a few of those people who most influenced his trek from tyke to titan.

"I was lucky," Messier told a packed media room. "I had my father who played hockey and he knew the game from a mental standpoint, but also a physical and technical standpoint. But he was busy when I played a lot of minor hockey with my older brother, so it was my mother I spent a lot of time talking hockey.

"If I had to pick out one coach [who most influenced my early career], it would be Ray 'Timer' Lemaire. He was a guy to this day that made a big impact in my life. As a player you look back at those people that are there to help you and guide you."

"The wives and the mothers – they see it all," said Carrie DePalma.
DePalma has guided many kids in his 20 years of devoted advocacy for youth hockey.

One was James van Riemsdyk, who played for DePalma's teams from squirts to midgets, was drafted second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007.

But DePalma knows these success stories are few and far between; he focuses on simple goals for average kids.

"In 20 years, I never had a player quit on me," said DePalma. "Carrie put that in the essay. I thought it was telling. They need to have fun. So many kids quit because of the pressure put on by coaches. That she remembered that meant a lot to me."

Even more to his charges and their parents.

"The satisfaction," said DePalma, "comes from when you're coaching kids that come back in four years and say, 'Thanks to you, Coach, I'm not late for work.' Coaching is about teaching -- teaching kids about things they can carry with them for life.

"When it comes to the special needs program we started a year ago, the satisfaction is every time you come off the ice -- no hockey expectations for those kids. The parents say 'Thank you.' Thank you for what? 'Thank you for just getting them out there.' Everyday is an award. This [award] is something extra – something special."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81