By Melissa Moore Randall
If you stop by the Cronin Rink in Revere, you will be greeted by a familiar face. Joe DeSantis, President of the East Coast Junior Patriots (ECJP) Hockey League, who has been a fixture with the local hockey and skating program for more than 25 years.
DeSantis became part of the program when his older son, Joey, started playing hockey. Joey, 35, along with his younger son, Jackie, 33, and daughter, Jenae, 30, all were part of the Revere Youth Hockey Program. Joey and Jackie went on to play hockey at Revere High School, while Jenae played at Marblehead High School for their girls’ program.
Despite his children being grown, Joe still continues his work with the program. Originally called Revere Youth Hockey, the program was renamed in recent years to the East Coast Junior Patriots Hockey League after merging with several surrounding cities and towns including Everett, Malden, and East Boston.
Today, despite the struggles with the high costs of the sport, DeSantis said that East Coast Junior Patriots Hockey League is the most diverse program in the state. “Presently, ECJP runs the Learn to Skate and Youth Hockey programs. Learn to Skate starts in August and runs until April. A stepping stone for hockey, it teachers kids as young as two years old, skating skills and techniques. The sessions run on Tuesdays in Revere and Saturdays in Everett for 10 weeks costing $100. All equipment is donated and free to skaters. The hockey program runs from September to April. This season it had 150 boys and girls participating. Players and teams run from ages 5-18 and includes five levels including the Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantams, and Midgets.
DeSantis refers to the program as a “feeder program for high school” that helps hockey players develop every step of the way. In addition, he said hockey offers much more to its players and families. “Hockey provides players with the opportunity to make best friends for life. The camaraderie among the players and parents is like no other sport. The sport has also become popular with girls. Our program grew to having 7 girls on the Bantam team alone this season.” DeSantis spoke highly of the dedicated parent volunteers who are part of the program and serve as either board members, Learn to Skate instructors, or hockey coaches including Gerry Visconti, Jamie Branzell, Carl Svendsen, Jennifer Cochrane, Craig Richards, Joe Hurley, Mark Woods, Joe Hurley Sr., Gina Hurley, Mike Roderick, Justin Sounders, Justin Teal, Walter Cook, and James Caruso.
DeSantis said that despite the many restrictions of COVID-19, the programs thrived this fall and winter. “It was difficult with all of the restrictions but everyone abided by the rules of the program. The programs were outlets for the kids who were unable to go to school this year or socialize. Our programs gave the kids the opportunity to get some sort of exercise as well.”
When asked about his most memorable moments with ECJP over the past 25 years, DeSantis reflected on the many years of being part of the Canadian Exchange with players from Chambly, a tradition that has gone on for 46 years. He also said over the years, he has enjoyed watching so many hockey players grow from Learn to Skate to high school hockey starts to successful young professionals. Many of those players are now giving back to the city of Revere serving on the Revere Fire and Police Departments including Michael Conley Jr., Gerard Festa, Sean Griffin, Ryan Rizzo, Brenden Bonito, Michael Forte, Jamie Nadworny, Michael Dercolo, Jack Dean, Anthony Delloiacono, Matt Leslie, and Derek Vecchia. DeSantis looks forward to continuing with the program to keep it thriving for years and generations to come. You can learn more about the East Coast Junior Patriots Hockey League by following them on Facebook