Article by Carmen Spagnuolo
Perhaps the only thing possibly stronger than the camaraderie, bond and brotherhood experienced amongst hockey players, may be the special bond between actual family brothers who are equally as passionate about playing the game. The Freeze club has had many combinations and multiples of family siblings throughout its history. Many siblings have played together, sometimes in a long line of succession that carries the family hockey legacy over many years. True brothers can bring out the best in each other and maybe a little deviance and distraction (but, boys will be boys, right?).
Nick Civetta, a 17-year-old senior at Randolph High School enters his final season with his high school Rams hockey squad. Nick shares the special distinction as one of the longest continuous Freeze members who began with the club as a first-year Mite and now completes his last Midget season with the 18UAA Black team (Note: at the time of this publishing, the 18UAA team found success as undefeated Division Champs, NJYHL State Champions and earned a spot at Nationals by winning the District Championship). Nick will rejoin his Freeze teammates again in April in Green Bay, Wisconsin to compete in the USA Hockey National Championship Tournament.
Chris Civetta, is a 16-year-old sophomore at Randolph High School and Nick’s younger brother. Chris took a slightly different youth hockey route joining the Freeze program as a Bantam. He completed his second year at the midget level on the 16UAA Black squad, who made a great run into NJYHL playoffs this short season. Chris began playing as a squirt with Randolph’s recreation program and wanted to confirm his dedication to the sport before committing his parents to the financial delight of travel hockey. Chris fell in love with hockey early on and quickly realized he was as enthusiastic as his brother about the game. He wanted to excel in competition level and further his development.
The age differential between the Civetta brothers didn’t allow for them to play together on the same teams growing up. It has allowed for healthy sibling rivalry and the ability to support each other as fans. Coincidentally, their squads practiced together during the midget short season this year. It was a great way for the boys to connect at a high level of play and still have some fun chirping at one another. Although there may not have been opportunity to play together on teams, there was always plenty of time to play together with good friends on ponds and off ice in street hockey events, driveway action and some intense basement games. It gave the brothers an opportunity to utilize their creativity and imagination, inventing games and times together as siblings do.
Chris and Nick proudly boast that they have created about 20 different types of games that have been played in their basement involving different balls, rule variations and utilization of different playing implements. A high level of competitiveness and intensity has been corroborated by the boys and proven according to the size of the holes they indicated exist in the sheetrock walls in their basement. Sometimes great ideas can backfire badly. Nick had the genius idea to shoot golf balls with his (regular size) hockey stick, the full length of the basement, and shoot into an old mattress laying around (Sweet! What could go wrong?). All was going well, until unfortunately, an errant full shot (pulled left) found the open bathroom door and completely shattered the glass shower door into a million pieces (yes, all great memories).
The Freeze wanted to know how playing for the club has influenced the brothers in a positive manner and what life lessons have they learned? Nick commented about his great experiences and memories with the club and stated, “Before I was a captain of two teams, last year and two years prior to that, those were my first leadership positions ever. I learned a lot about how to lead a team, about responsibility, and then I was able to apply it in leading my school clubs and in everyday situations.” Chris also remarked, “Along with leadership has been learning discipline. You need to work in cooperation with those around you, follow the system and your particular role on a team.” Chris further stipulated, “I learned how to trust people. When I first started hockey, I tried to do everything myself. As I progressed through the years, I learned to trust and rely on my teammates. It directly relates to everyday life, school, learning to trust your teachers and trusting classmates when partnering on projects, etc.” Nick has also embraced experiences learned from the club on how to separate on-ice hard work, intensity and conflict dynamics from off-ice friendliness and not hold any grudges. In his words, he describes, “it’s like separating work from your personal life.”
The brothers have learned to push, encourage and critique each other on and off the ice in a progressive manner. Since Nick began playing hockey first and at a younger age, Chris’ mantra has always been to not skate in the shadow of his brother. He wants to be seen as an individual, to set personal goals and leave his mark in both the travel and high school programs. It is important for siblings to feel unique and to accomplish their own goals.
The Freeze asked the brothers, who was your most memorable coach growing up and why? Chris gleefully replied, “Coach McNamara from my Randolph Rec team. He taught us the basics of the game during my rec years, but we always had a lot of fun learning with my friends. He was inspirational to me and a factor in hockey becoming a sport that I wanted to pursue seriously.” Nick had an interesting perspective to his most memorable coach during his hockey tenure and specified, “Coach Brophy (from his 16UAA team). He had a unique style and personality… he was probably one of the strictest coaches on ice, but yet the most friendly and personable off ice.” Nick enjoyed the dichotomy between the coach’s separate, but two different sides.
In discussing skill development and about younger players ambitions to advance to elite levels and varsity levels, the brothers gave their insight to what they feel it takes to achieve the highest stage of travel and high school hockey. Nick believes, “learning to be agile and to have superior skating skills is a key to advancing to higher levels and separating yourself from average skaters.” Chris also commented that, “focusing on continually improving your work ethic and strengthening your hockey IQ helps.” They both agreed that “hockey smarts and hard work” were critical components for high school players.
The Civetta parents are also a huge part of the boys’ development, support and keeping them grounded and humble. Vinny and Shannon Civetta can be seen (and heard at times) from the stands encouraging their boys. They are proud parents who understand the importance of the sport, the discipline it brings, and how it bolsters and has helped shape the maturity and growth of their sons into well-mannered young gentlemen. Personalities play a special part into the family dynamics at the Civetta household. Everyone adds their humorous share, support and love; however, Chris is clearly the jokester and comedian in the family (so he self-claims).
Academics are key for these young men. Nick has been a consistent honor roll student throughout high school. He is member of the National Honor Society for Math and Science. Chris is also an outstanding student and honor roll recipient. Both boys understood early on that school work trumps hockey or other extracurricular activities. They have learned to manage their time well and balance sports, hobbies and school work properly.
Looking toward college next year, Nick aspires to study as a political science major and plans to apply early decision to his primary choice, George Washington University. Other schools of interest are American University, and University of Maryland at College Park. He would like to attend a school in the Washington, D.C. area and immerse himself in the political atmosphere. He would consider joining club hockey at college as long as it doesn’t interfere with his workload. Although Chris is only a sophomore, his focused interests currently center around the computer sciences and computer engineering with something involved in the technology industry. He enjoys spending free time on computers and with gaming systems. Both brothers can’t think of not having hockey be a part of their lives somehow, as they move forward into the future.
The NJ Freeze Hockey Club wishes Nick the best of success in his pursuit for a USA Hockey National Title in April and on his perennial run with Randolph High School in the quest for NJSIAA States in high school. The Freeze wishes Nick well on his journey and future endeavors in college and in professional life. We look forward to the Civetta hockey name being carried on as Chris continues to pursue his ambitions, goals and adds his contributions with our club.
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