The Beantown Classic tournament organization will make history this coming weekend in Exeter, N.H., as the tournament welcomes the NextGEN AAA (Advancement In Athletics and Academics) Foundation Hockey team for its Beantown Summer Classic, to be run Aug. 8-11 in Exeter, N.H.
The NextGEN AAA Foundation squad will field a team entirely consisting of black and brown players from the United States, Canada and Great Britain. The Foundation was founded by Dee Dee Ricks, a philanthropist and self-described Hockey Mom. Coaching the NextGEN AAA team in Exeter will be New Jersey Devils Assistant Coach and former Boston University and NHL player Mike Grier, as well as former NHLer Bryce Salvador, NextGEN AAA’s NHL Alumni Ambassador.
“As someone who makes his living in the sport of hockey, any opportunity to help grow the sport is what we are all trying to do,” said Beantown Classic Founder and President Peter Masters. “I am always looking to help nourish any initiative to get more athletes involved in this great sport.”
“I am extremely happy and grateful to work with this group of young and talented players,” said Mike Grier, in a NextGEN AAA Foundation release. “Thank you to NextGEN and the National Hockey League for supporting the development of minority players pursuing their dreams.”
“NextGEN provides youth hockey opportunities and experiences for young men of color that I wish I had when I was growing up in the game,” said Bryce Salvador. “The game of hockey continues to increase the number of diverse players with the talent and skill to compete in college, in the minors, and the NHL, and supporting organizations like NextGEN, who develop those pathways, is vital.”
The National Hockey League (NHL) and Pure Hockey will sponsor the team.
“NextGEN is carving out a pipeline of diverse, elite-level hockey talent,” said Kim Davis, Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs at the NHL. “We believe in the near future more teams across the continent will feature more players of color, and this NextGEN team is a strong signal that we are moving closer to that day.”
The Beantown Classic’s Masters - a former Boston College player - recalls when he was first contacted about the possibility of NextGEN AAA Foundation’s team joining his event.
“The Beantown Classic is in its 17th year and this is the first time we have allowed a pre-rostered, full team to participate in this event. We have always had 350-400 individual entry athletes register through a stringent evaluation process and then place them on teams to compete each August,” Masters said.
“I received a call from Brett Peterson, who is a full-time NHL agent,” Masters added. Peterson is an advisor/consultant to the Foundation. “He explained the genesis of the team and the goals and that he has worked with this group the past two summers and he then pitched them joining our event for the first time. When presented with the goal of NextGen and the team they wanted to bring, it was a no-brainer for us to include them in our event as presented.”
Team recruitment was led by Rod Braceful, the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
“I’m extremely honored to assist the NextGEN Foundation and support minority players and families navigating elite levels of the game,” said Rod Braceful. “It was a similar organization in Detroit that fueled my love for the game and role models like Mike Grier and Bryce Salvador who inspired me and many others to find a career path in hockey.”
The NextGEN AAA Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of student-athletes – primarily through academic and athletic intervention – while striving to create an all-inclusive environment in youth hockey. NextGEN has provided over $1 million in scholarships to support student-athletes of color at some of the leading preparatory schools, colleges, and travel hockey programs throughout North America.
“This is our third year bringing together some of the top diverse student-athletes in North America and Great Britain to compete in the Beantown tournament,” said Ricks. “Our roster represents just how far we have come in less than a decade, thanks to people like Rod, Mike and Bryce and the generosity of the NHL and Pure Hockey.”
Two fun and fast-paced days of hockey came to a close with the end of the 2020 NCDC Detroit Combine, which was held July 30-31 at Fraser Hockeyland in Fraser, Mich., home of the Metro Jets.
The Combine featured 160 players ranging in birth years from 2000 to 2004. The Combine, originally scheduled for April 12-13, was twice postponed due to Covid-19 concerns. The USPHL followed all state and federal health regulations in holding the event, with the utmost focus and priority being on the health of all attendees.
The Combine had representation from coaches with teams at all levels of the USPHL. There was also an informational session held featuring League Office personnel as well as the host team’s head coach and event organizer Justin Quenneville of the Metro Jets. Players and parents alike were introduced to and educated on the USPHL’s multi-tiered development model and its success in placing players in college hockey. Last year, more than 1,200 USPHL alumni were active in college hockey, with roughly 400 earning NCAA athletic and academic awards.
“It was very impressive, the level of talent was very good,” said Dave Peters, the NCDC Deputy Commissioner. “There was a lot of skill on the ice, a good pace to games, and it was a good opportunity for players at both the NCDC and Premier to evaluate players.
“The hosts have done an outstanding job, with all that’s going on with the pandemic, all the changes we’ve had to make, and with all the protocols and requirements that were put in. People are able to maintain social distancing, everybody has a mask on. We’ve had to change the dates and change the location of Chicago, but the League Office and the teams hosting have done a really good job of making the adjustments and making this work.”
“For me, it’s been fun being the host but it’s definitely a team effort,” said Quenneville. “From the League down, I really appreciate the support. I’m very fortunate to have a cast here to make this event very professional and very safe. It’s very fortunate that the League is willing to invest in coming out here and showcasing other options out here for players.”
The event had representatives from nearly half of the NCDC, as well as a large portion of the USPHL Premier. Cody Murphy is the head coach of the first-year Elmira Jr. Enforcers, and commented on how both 2020 Combines, including the aforementioned Chicago Combine (June 13-14 in Dyer, Ind.)
“It’s huge for us to see all the different prospects that come from here and a lot of guys who are sleepers,” he said. “We’re thankful that the USPHL puts on these Combines.”
“I love these Combines,” added Mike Stanaway, Head Coach of the New York Aviators. “It gives kids an opportunity to come in and really see what our league is all about and they get the opportunity to meet coaches from different divisions. From a coaching standpoint, it’s great. You’re getting a good cross-section of kids and the quality is fantastic here.”