Joseph Ruggiero of Pelham, N.Y., was named the winner of the 2012-13 Emile Francis Award, presented by World Yacht, during a ceremony betwen the second and third periods of Tuesday night's Rangers-Canadiens Youth Hockey Night game.
Now in its sixth year, the Francis Award honors an individual's achievements in the local youth hockey community. It is named for former Rangers coach and general manager Emile Francis, who worked tirelessly to help grow awareness of the game among youngsters in the Tri-State Area. The award was presented to Ruggiero by native New Yorkers and former Rangers Nick Fotiu and Brian Mullen, both of whose NHL careers were due in large part to Francis' work.
Ruggiero's hockey resume shows not only a lifelong devotion to the sport, but a commitment to helping kids at all skill levels.
Currently a coach in the USA Special Hockey program, Ruggiero has a youth-hockey career dating back nearly three decades to 1984, when he and his brother began a beginner's hockey clinic at the Rye Playland Ice Casino. He then went on to become a volunteer coach with the Ice Casino's house-league batam team as well as an assistant coach of the Pelham Memorial High School junior varsity team.
After the death of his brother, Ruggiero raised money to honor his memory with a series of goaltending clinics that featured a puck-shooting machine purchased with those funds. He also became very active in summer hockey and continued his work with the Pelham High program for 13 years before eventually becoming the head coach at Eastchester High School.
Ruggiero spent 10 years as Eastchester High's coach coach before transitioning to his current role in USA Special Hockey as a volunteer coach of the New York Raptors, a team of developmentally disabled athletes. On Sundays, Ruggiero donates his time to coach a house league in Yonkers, N.Y.
"The joy he receives from this is unlike anything he has experienced," said Ruggiero's wife, Marcia, of her husband's work with USA Special Hockey.
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