Volume 74, Number 45 | March 16 - 22, 2005

Sports


Villager taking his shot in Canadian hockey league


By Judith Stiles

When hockey phenom Danny Genovese comes back home to Greenwich Village all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, the first thing he does is stop at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine St. to grab a slice.

“Canadians don’t get pizza and I can’t wait to get back here and have the best pizza in the world. Last time I had five slices in one sitting!” he says over the phone from Vancouver, practically salivating.

Young Genovese is focused on ice hockey 24/7 these days as he readies for the final playoff games with his team, the Chilliwack Chiefs, a Junior A team in the elite British Columbia Hockey League. In Canada, Genovese is affectionately known by his fans and teammates as “The New York Defenseman.”

Now 20 years old, he has been playing hockey since he was 12, and his mother and avid fan, Laurie Ottomanelli, fondly remembers the days when Danny and older brother Rocco spent hours in the hallway of their apartment building taking shots on each other with real sticks and a puck. “Danny mostly defended and blocked Rocco’s shots with a pillow, and if he let one go by and it hit the wall, he knew he would be in big trouble with the neighbors,” she says with a wink.

Genovese, a natural athlete, first skated on roller blades and spent many afternoons in pickup games on the asphalt surface at the park at the corner of W. Houston St. and Sixth Ave. “We played with hockey sticks and a real puck, no tennis balls for us, and everyone was in the game for fun,” says Genovese, remembering those days a bit wistfully. While Genovese was a student at St. Joseph’s School on Sixth Ave. in the Village, he joined New York City’s travel hockey team called the Cyclones, where he rapidly excelled skating on ice.

His former teacher and mentor at St. Joe’s, Michael McCormack, remembers him as an exceptionally talented skater, but he is quick to describe Danny first as a generous kid with a big heart. “Once Danny was given as a gift a hockey stick with the signatures of many of the top players on the Rangers. But when his coach got sick with cancer, and an auction was held to raise money, Danny donated that stick without a blink,” says McCormack.

The bond between McCormack and young Genovese has lasted way past elementary school. McCormack is now a big fan who follows all the Chilliwack games on the Internet. Whenever Genovese stops in town, he makes sure to visit his mentor to catch up on the neighborhood news.

“He had a big influence on me as a kid,” Genovese recalls. “I tended to be the class clown sometimes, and he taught me that if you show respect for your teachers, they will help you and guide you. Mr. McCormack was my all-time favorite teacher,” he adds enthusiastically.

After St. Joseph’s, Genovese started his first year at La Salle Academy, when he was spotted by a scout from the prestigious National Sports Academy in Lake Placid. Next he attended the academy for his high school years on a full scholarship. At the academy, everyone focused on winter sports, such ice hockey, figure skating, skiing and snowboarding. Genovese tried a few other sports, even basketball, but hockey was his first love. “Danny has always been an excellent defenseman, and he has a pure love of playing the game,” says his proud aunt, Joanna Catena, a physical education instructor at St. Joseph’s.

From the National Sports Academy, he was invited to play for the Chilliwack Chiefs, which was a big move for a kid who loves the Big Apple. Aunt Joanna says living in Lake Placid and then Vancouver was a major adjustment for her nephew, but he always comes back for the summer. “Yes, Vancouver is very different, and I knew I was in a hockey town when I noticed they sell hockey tape in all the supermarkets,” says Genovese laughing.

There are a lot of New York ice hockey fans who are heartbroken with no Stanley Cup playoffs to wind down from the winter. For those fans who are having withdrawals, google “British Columbia Hockey League” and there will be different choices on how to catch the playoffs on the radio or Internet. Genovese is not disappointed that the National Hockey League cancelled the 2004-’05 season, because that drove thousands of fans to his games. However, he is already looking past the playoffs to perhaps taking a few college classes in the off-season, or possibly playing professionally in a few years, and of course in the short term, he will be heading back to Greenwich Village for a long awaited slice of delicious pizza at Joe’s.

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