Article by Carmen Spagnuolo
At times, we get so wrapped up in everyday life, activities and sports that we forget to “stop and smell the roses” as they say, or enjoy the simplest of things such as the peaceful hypnotic drone and Zen-meditation qualities of a Zamboni ice cut. We tend to overlook things and not appreciate the finer details around us. The NJ Freeze has such interesting members with diverse talents and skills in addition to trying to place a puck in the back of a net. If you sit back, listen and learn about members that you are not familiar with, you might be surprised with what you learn.
Joe Shnyder joined the Freeze organization two seasons ago. He is a 16-year-old sophomore attending Sparta High School. Joe played as a defenseman on the 16UA Red squad this past midget short season. He enjoys the defensive position and all the physical aspects of the game. Joe found his passion to play hockey from joining friends in street hockey games later in elementary school. He was inspired to play at an older age and worked hard on building his basic hockey skills and learned to become adept in playing the game.
Unbeknownst maybe to most, Joe is trilingual. Besides speaking his native English language, Joe is proficient in French and Swedish. He also enjoys dabbling in communicating in Spanish, Polish and Romanian. His current high school Spanish teacher is Romanian (go figure) so he has the opportunity to learn both languages with her. Joe’s interest in learning foreign languages began in 6th grade when he was required to choose a foreign language for his studies. He selected French and found the challenge of learning a new language fun and exhilarating, so he plunged into it head first.
In addition to his regular classroom instruction, Joe began to self-teach himself French and other languages with simple online programs and other software to establish a good basic foundation and then would listen to radio or TV broadcasts in the particular language whether it be news, sporting events, TV shows or any other means of media using the language. He challenged himself to figure things out in everyday communicating situations. He would also try to hold conversations with people who are fluent in the particular language, all the while gaining valuable experience and expanding his knowledge. Joe loves studying new things and finds satisfaction in the challenge of conquering something he didn’t know before. As for future use of the languages, the professional science field he wants to go into has many French speaking people working in it.
Academically, Joe confidently states that his GPA ranks in the top five percent of in his sophomore class. He has earned Principal’s Scholar Honor Roll regularly (straight A’s). As a Sophomore, he is studying in a college level French class normally reserved for select seniors only. This is the first year that anyone other than a senior has been invited to participate in the class. Math and Science are his obvious strong suits. Joe proudly exclaimed that he has applied and is waiting to hear about a position as a paid math instructor in town. He anticipates having the position in the very near future. He is delighted that he qualifies to teach at a senior level and beyond.
Interestingly, Joe has a strong creative side in addition to his scientific side. He has been playing trumpet since 4th grade. He said, “Playing trumpet really helps me get a feel for things. Playing music is similar to playing hockey, you can’t really plan everything out, you need to read, react and flow naturally with the music. I find that they do connect with each other.” In the spring, Joe runs track for his high school competing in the 100m, 200m and triple jump events. Joe also enjoys other sports such as his involvement in Karate.
Although it is early in his overall high school career, Joe aspires to attend Princeton University as a physics major. A dream job in his professional future would be to work as a fully tenured professor of physics at a prestigious university. Joe has ambitions to eventually work as a theoretical physicist. He is interested in research and exploring a theory that will link all the main forces of physics and how they work together.
While his time with the Freeze organization has been relatively young, Joe has enjoyed some fun experiences… He recalls the tournament in his initial season where there was a group of Freeze parents enjoying celebratory beverages together at the hotel for one of the parent’s birthday. Someone asked Joe to retrieve his trumpet from his room (yes, he brought his instrument being the ever-diligent musician) where he obliged the request to blast out Happy Birthday late at night down in the middle of the hotel. A very memorable and fun moment.
The entire Shynder family are passionate NY Rangers fans. Joe admires the hard work ethics of his beloved NHL team. Joe commented on his favorite Rangers player Mats Zuccarello; “Although he is relatively small, they call him the hobbit… but yet he manages to pass, score and uses his size very efficiently to perform at a top elite NHL level” (sounds like a solid scientific observation to me).
When asked what life lessons has he gathered from the Freeze program so far during his two seasons, Joe responded, “Playing for the Freeze has been very rewarding. It’s given me a very strong work ethic both on ice and in school. The structure here allows me to develop as a player and as a person. It has been very beneficial. Our squad last year struggled to secure division success, and even through the losses I always worked my hardest and tried to do something positive on the ice. A lot of the mental toughness needed in school comes from playing hockey.”
Joe offered valuable words of encouragement to younger players joining the sport, “Find a balance and time for all of your passions and interests. Don’t burn yourself out or spread yourself too thin. Definitely practice, but make sure you leave room for many other things you want to do (i.e. singing) and I believe the wide spread interests will help each passion grow stronger for each other.”
Joe elaborated further about his experience with the organization; “The Freeze organization has been a wonderful opportunity for me and has welcomed me with open arms. I am grateful for that.” He continued about his experience this past season, “regardless of our record and game results, we considered ourselves teammates and banded together during adversity. After a while Coach Kepler wouldn’t try to find the stellar pre or post game-plan speech, instead he would tell the team about the process that they are going through now and that his job as a coach is to prepare us for careers and to prepare us to succeed in life. He said that is why he is there and why he pushes us so hard.” These were inspirational words for Joe.
Joe Shnyder is a uniquely well-rounded individual. It is refreshing to learn about a young gentleman with passions and visions and working hard on pursuing his dreams. The NJ Freeze looks forward to Joe’s return and hard work next season and more interesting stories… on se voit bientôt! (or, “we will see you soon” in French.)
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