Interview with Ridge Ice Hockey Captain, John Vilade ‘17

John Tondora ‘21

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As winter sports season approaches, The Devil’s Advocate sat down with the Captain of the Ridge Ice Hockey Team, John Vilade ’17, to discuss the team’s prospects.

Reporter: How do you feel about Ridge’s hockey season this year?

Vilade: I think we are going to do really well. We have a lot of returning players, and we almost won the state championship last year, making it to the semi-finals. Our ultimate goal, like it is every year, is to make and win the state finals, which hasn’t happened since 2008. I believe that it’s more possible now than ever. Since I’m a senior, I would love nothing more than to take the team, as the captain, all the way to the Prudential Center. In conference play, we should do very well, considering our past successes. Last year, we won the Skyland conference championship, so I think we shouldn’t expect anything less than that.

Reporter: Which team do you feel most excited to play against?

Vilade: I am most excited, like I am every year, to play Hunterdon Central. Not only do I have a lot of friends and past teammates playing there, but also we also have a fierce in-conference rivalry that always attracts a large crowd. The same can be said for Bridgewater Raritan.

Reporter: Are they your biggest opponent? How will you modify your game plan to beat them?

Vilade: Our biggest opponent is Randolph. They are always tough. We play them in the preseason, and in the past few years, we haven’t really been prepared for it. We will need to play a lot more physically and skate a lot harder, since winning loose puck battles will determine whether we will win. I have a lot of confidence in the team, though, so I think we have a good chance of beating them. They really are, I feel, the only team standing in our way of winning the state championship.

Reporter: How important is it for you, as a leader and Senior at Ridge, to build a better hockey team for the underclassmen?

Vilade: As the captain, I’m succeeding a lot of great leaders. Last year’s captain, Andrew Kleinert, was one of the best captains I’ve ever been able to play under. I think that ingraining this idea of having a few big leaders to keep everyone together is most important, especially from a hockey standpoint. I have a great legacy to live up to for the hockey team, and it’s really important to continue this with the younger players. We have a great junior class, so I know they will be very successful even after our seniors depart.

Reporter: What does being an athlete and a student representative of Ridge both on and off the ice mean to you?

Vilade: Ridge athletes are trusted to represent the school in a positive way and to uphold the legacy of the Ridge athletes that came before us. Athletically, we are always shooting for first place, and every time I step on the ice, I’m always trying to continue our history of athletic success and sportsmanship. I also really try to be a model student… We are one of the best public schools in terms of academics, so we need to balance sports and school to the best of our abilities.

Reporter: How do you balance classwork and school with sports?

Vilade: I try my best to get my schoolwork done right after I get home. I always prioritize school, putting it ahead of sports and other extracurriculars. If that means I have too much work and need to put sports off, then so be it. Thankfully, the coaches are really understanding. They know how important grades are in a great school district like this.

Reporter: In terms of atmosphere, what else makes Ridge sports programs different from those of other schools?

Vilade: Ridge is different from other schools because we have the entire student body on the side of our athletes. The student body is very active; they show up to every sport no matter what, wanting our teams to succeed. Our coaches are also very supportive and the best in their field. This all helps our athletes, and it shows well on Ridge since we have won the Shoprite Cup for back-to-back years.

Reporter: Who is your favorite hockey player? Do you try to model your play style after them?

Vilade: My favorite player is Zach Parise from the Minnesota Wild, who used to be the captain of the Devils. I really do try to model my play after him. He plays with never-ending determination that I also strive for every time I’m on the ice. He is also very respectful to his teammates and the opposition, which is something I find very important.

John’s answers demonstrate his love and enthusiasm for the game of hockey. The sportsmanship, athleticism, and teamwork that John talks about point to why hockey is the one of the sports that continues to grow across the country. Especially in New Jersey, the number of ice hockey players has grown by about 10 percent in the last 5 years. Hoping to solidify hockey as one of the most successful Ridge athletic programs and to set an example for future Ridge athletes, John and his team are looking to bring home a state championship this season.

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