by Paul Shaheen - Amateur Hockey Report Senior Writer
November 22, 2008
New York, they say, is the 'city that never sleeps.' Across the river in New Jersey, Alexx Privitera is the defenseman that never rests.
At 5-10 and 180 pounds, a typical day for the right shooting Privitera is more akin to a Wall Street CEO than a typical 16 year-old.
"I'm up for a six am power skate, then I'm in school from eight until two, then I'm on the ice for practice at three with the high school team before hitting the gym," says Privitera, who has his mom Rissa to thank for all the support, not to mention the afternoon shuttle service.
"Then in between I'll eat and study, and then have another practice at night, and I don't get home until about 10:30, then some more studying, then to bed."
That's exhausting just to read about, but for Privitera, who's skating for the AAA New Jersey Avalanche, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love every minute of it, but gosh, without my parent's help and support, I couldn't do it, I feel privileged."
Privitera is indeed privileged. He comes from a good natured hard working family. His parents, Rissa and Michael, both work full-time, and Alexx has two younger brothers: Jarrid ('94) and Griffin ('97), both of whom play hockey as well.
The Priviteras work hard for their money, and for their sons, not a bit of which gets past either one of them.
"I am so lucky," says Privitera. "I attend Bergen Catholic High School (Oradell, NJ, in Bergen Country--north Jersey to be exact). "Between that and hockey, mom and dad spent a ton of money on me every year. Dad works 13 hours a day, mom drives me and my brothers all around. If not for myself, I want to succeed for them," Privitera adds. "My schedule's insane, but I hope it'll all be worth it."
So far so good on that score. Not only an excellent student, Privitera, by many accounts, is one of the top '93's in the U.S., and getting better all the time. Though he may yet consider Canadian Major A, he suggests the value of more practice time versus game action, not to mention his classroom success, will likely lead him to United States D-I.
"I could see myself playing in either situation," says Privitera, "both seem to suit my style. But I'm young, and not making any decisions right now. I just want to get stronger and improve."
Good player, good attitude, good outlook.
"Alexx is all character," says Avalanche midget minor coach (and one-time Providence Friar) John Picinic, a Fort Lee, New Jersey native who skated for the Friars in the late 1990's. "Alex is a kid who really wants it. A lot of kids say they want it but Alexx really does. for many kids, you worry if girls and parties will eventually take over their attention. But not Alexx, not only will he be a good defenseman at the next level, but there's no reason why he won't dominate."
Why's that? Let's count the ways.
Privitera has a very strong skill set. He can skate, has excellent vision, a classic high panic point, and can run a power-pay like no one's business.
"A lot of that I owe to my roller hockey days," Privitera explains. "In roller hockey, you play four-on-four. No icings, no offsides, no whistles, I could see the entire rink and everything in front of me. It helped make be better and transition to playing on ice."
These days, Privitera, a sophomore, plays for two masters. Not only is he skating for the AAA Avalanche, he's also playing for Bergen Catholic's high school team. "High school play may not be quite like playing midget minor, but it's a good experience," says Privitera. "We have a good team, and we'll play against some strong competition."
Privitera made more than a few heads turn during his summer of 2008 performance at the USA Select 15 Festival, and he's followed that up with a very impressive fall. He and the Avalanche played very well at the Nike/Bauer invitational tournament in Chicago a month ago (before falling to Little Caesars in the quarterfinals), and he continues to make observers and scouts believe in his abilities.
"He is deadly on the power play," adds Picinic. "For defensemen his age, I'm not sure anyone's better offensively."
What Privitera does, he does for himself, his parents, and someone else: his grandfather, who can now only see him in the most ethereal of ways.
"When I was young, my grandfather took me ice skating for the first time," Privitera reflects. "On his death bed, he made my mom promise she would never let us stop playing hockey, so I play for him."
And in his honor, Alexx carries his grandfather's inscription into every season, and every game.
"Each year my mom embroiders a patch on my jersey with my grandfather's initials: AJN," says Privitera. "His name was Allen Jerry Nudelman and he was born in Brooklyn. I'm not sure if I'll always be able to do this, but hopefully I will."
Needless to say, Privitera wears more than just heart and emotion on his sleeve.
Notice the double 'X,' 'R' and 'F' in Alexx and his brother's first names? That too is in honor of their grandfather, who had two 'L's in his name....Picinic played prep hockey at Hotchkiss (Lakeville, CT) before moving onto Providence, and wishes Jersey hockey had been as far along when he was growing up as it is today. "People are taking hockey more seriously, and there's more knowledge," says Picinic, who has coached Privitera and the Avalanche '93's for the last three years. "Back then, there'd be a parent behind the bench with a cigarette doing the best he could. Now there's more sophistication, better coaching, and I think the success of the (NHL) Devils in the late 1990's made a big impact on kids."