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Mass Hockey Spotlight: East Coast Junior Patriots

By Jamie MacDonald , 05/20/21, 10:30AM EDT


For the better part of 30 years, Joe DeSantis has been at the rink, helping keep hockey a part of Revere – then Everett, then Malden and East Boston after a series of mergers. These days, with grown kids now into their 30s, all of whom played hockey, DeSantis is at the rink nearly every day during the hockey season.

As a result of working so closely with the players and their families, he knows them all. And on the occasion of the annual Revere High alumni hockey game, DeSantis can be reminded of just how many players still know him and want to say hello.

how it began

“It was Revere Youth Hockey, and then it was Everett-Revere Youth Hockey, and then Malden and East Boston joined us about three or four years ago,” says DeSantis, the program's president. “With the four towns, we came up with the name of the East Coast Junior Patriots.”

what they're doing right...

“And that was probably the highlight of the year,” says DeSantis. “When we merged with all these programs, all these families, they loved it. And that helped bond everyone.”

DeSantis also makes it as easy as he can to keep players in the game.

“We never say no to anybody if they cannot afford to skate,” he says. “We don’t say, ‘OK, sorry.’ I just can’t see saying, ‘This kid can’t skate because they can’t afford to skate,’ so we do everything we can to scholarship somebody like that.”

Help can come from anywhere and anyone, too.

“When we first merged with Everett, I made sure we had an equal amount of board members, and then when we merged with Malden and East Boston, we were still trying to do that,” says DeSantis. “As time goes on, I was just happy to get people to help. I didn’t care where you were from. If someone was nice and wanted to volunteer their time, it was great.”

DeSantis is always looking for local help as well, writing letters to local businesses and making use of donated equipment.

love of the game

To this day, DeSantis appreciates hockey for what it can mean to young players.

“I always love the game, just love watching the kids growing, developing in each level,” he says. “To me, it’s not all about winning. It’s about the bonding. It’s such a long season and the bonding part is still special. I’ve been through it, so I’ve seen it.”

During that February alumni game, it’s all on display.

“You’re talking about ages 25 to 38 or so,” DeSantis says of the alumni rosters. “And every one of those kids, I know. And I’m there and every one of them came up to me. It was so humbling. To go watch the game and have all these different people come up to me. It was just so humbling.”

It’s also rewarding for what amounts to the season-long job of working out of a couple rinks and across four towns just outside of Boston.

“We have ice Monday through Friday with practices and then there are the games on the weekends, so I’m usually at the rink,” says DeSantis. “I can honestly say I know every single kid and every family in the program. So when there’s an issue, it’s easy to deal with because I know the family and the kids and the circumstances. If their families aren’t originally from here, they come in fascinated by the skating. I’ve seen families from all over the world. And I try to make it convenient for them. The family from Tibet, they’re the first ones there every week. They love it, love it, love it. And the mother and father, they’re so grateful. Wonderful people.”

DeSantis remains proud, too, of the work the program has been able to accomplish over the years in blending programs.

“We merged with no problems,” he says. “There are a lot of programs merging out there, and with each merge it was smooth. They were very good mergers. We didn’t have any problems with anybody. There was no favoring of anybody. You never heard that.”

the last word...

“You do it because you like doing it,” says DeSantis. “You don’t do it for the attention. You do it for the right reasons.”