It's been quite the hectic stretch for Steve Santini. Not only has he been busy with the business of owning, managing, and running the Brewster Ice Arena---one of the Rangers' Premier Partner Rinks and key participant in the Future Rangers developmental hockey program---but three of his children have recently had graduations---one from college, one from high school, and one from eighth grade.
"We got them all done in one shot," joked Santini earlier this week.
Now on Sunday Santini's only son, a top hockey prospect also named Steve, is eligible to be selected in the 2013 National Hockey League Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
"We have a big Italian family, so we're taking the crew down (to the Prudential Center) and everyone's gonna' be going," offered the proud father.
Sunday's draft---where young Steve, a talented stay-at-home defenseman who played the past two seasons in the United States Developmental Program, is likely going to be selected in the first round---is the continuation of the Santini's three-generation love affair with hockey, one that has made the Santinis one of the most influential hockey families in New York.
Steve the senior played hockey at the University of Maine in the early '80's---following his older brothers who played roller hockey growing up in the Bronx before switching to ice. At the time of his college graduation in 1987, Steve's father Bob Santini completed a deal to take over and re-open the Long Beach Ice Arena on Long Island---the same venue where the Rangers practiced for many years in the 1970's. Bob Santini, a successful real estate man in the Bronx, left the running of his refurbished arena in Long Beach to his son Steve.
"It had been a vacant building for five years, but the city of Long Beach granted my father and his partners the opportunity to refurbish it," recalled Steve. "I had been fortunate to play Division One hockey, but like a lot of recent graduates, I needed a job. I had a pretty good hockey background, so I ran the facility since my father had his real estate office in the Bronx. So we not only opened that rink, but we built up the (hockey and ice-skating) program out there."
That Bob Santini had an interest in hockey, or a hockey rink, outside of the real estate side of things is quite the story, too.
"My father came from an off the boat Italian family...hockey was not anything they knew about," explained Steve. "But he became really enamored with the sport. At that time (the 1970's) there was no formalized high school hockey in New York City, so when my one brother was a senior at Mount St. Michael's my father helped form the Catholic High School Hockey League and was commisioner for a number of years. My dad started to play himself in his late 30's, and he is 81 years old now and still plays three nights a week!"
That love of the game clearly transcended generations in the Santini family as Steve the senior created the Brewster Ice Arena, and young Steve immediately took to the sport of hockey. Though he grew up in the town of Mahopac in Westchester, young Steve Santini spent much of his time with his father at the Brewster Ice Arena "embracing the sport" in the words of his father.
It was around the age of 12 that Steve the junior began to stand out as a hockey player in the eyes of his father.
"He was around it at a pretty high level right from the start because we have some pretty high level teams here (at the Brewster Ice Arena) and he saw early on the commitment level and what it takes to even get the chance to play in college," Steve explained of his son, who has committed to Boston College this fall. "He was always a big kid, but he was like a big puppy that had to grow into his paws! But he had that natural passion for the game and he decided to commit and really follow his dream."
A Rangers fan growing up, young Steve separated from his family to play in the USDP in Ann Arbor, MI the past two years. After starring in the New York Applecore program, Steve further developed his game with the U.S. program, where scouts regularly track the best prospects.
"He was under the microscope there and that really helped him develop into the prospect he is now," Steve said of his son.
Since the Rangers do not own a first or second round selection in this year's draft, it is highly unlikely that Steve Santini will become Blueshirts property by the end of Sunday. Yet the Santini family ties to the Rangers will continue.
Steve the senior will continue his relationship with the Rangers organization through the programs he runs at the Brewster Ice Arena and the Long Beach Ice Arena. And he will be seen regularly at Madison Square Garden where for the past three seasons he has served as an NHL off-ice official---usually running the game clock, but sometimes manning one of the penalty boxes.
But on Sunday three generations of Santinis will be gathering across the river in New Jersey for young Steve Santini's selection into the National Hockey League---a moment that will be treasured, in particular, by Grandpa Bob, Dad Steve, and the aspiring defenseman himself (see photo, courtesy of the Santini family).
"It truely will be an honor."