At home on the road

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Goaltender Ben Shapiro of Suffolk keeps a watchful eye on the opposing team during a game he played for the Hampton Roads Whalers in Maryland. Shapiro, 15, will soon move away from his family for at least the next year, becoming a Pennsylvania resident in order to pursue hockey at the next level. If he has continued success, the move could even become permanent. (Photo submitted by Deb Shapiro)

Goaltender Ben Shapiro of Suffolk keeps a watchful eye on the opposing team during a game he played for the Hampton Roads Whalers in Maryland. Shapiro, 15, will soon move away from his family for at least the next year, becoming a Pennsylvania resident in order to pursue hockey at the next level. If he has continued success, the move could even become permanent. (Photo submitted by Deb Shapiro)

Suffolk teen moving to Pennsylvania to help fulfill his hockey dream

Fifteen-year-old Ben Shapiro of Suffolk is used to playing hockey up and down the East Coast and even played several games in Europe as a seventh-grader, but his upcoming games away from home will be more significant than ever.

After participating in a tryout for the Steel City Ice Renegades, a U16 AAA team in Pittsburgh, Ben was selected to be one of the team’s goaltenders. To fulfill the commitment to the team, he will be moving away from home this weekend to live in Monroeville, Pa., for the foreseeable future.

It’s a big step for any 15-year-old but one that perfectly illustrates Ben’s commitment to and love for the game of hockey.

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“It’s his thing,” said his mother, Deb Shapiro. “He’s totally into it. He sleeps it, breathes it.”

Ben, an 11-year veteran of the sport, is an accomplished goalie and was hungry for an opportunity to compete at a high level. He tried out for AAA teams closer to home, including one in Richmond, without success. But he didn’t give up.

“I just wanted more of a challenge,” he said.

Deb Shapiro said with the Ice Renegades, her son will be playing at the highest youth level, AAA, in the local Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League. He will also get to play for a traveling team in the National Junior Prospects Hockey League, where scouts are likely to evaluate talent.

His father, Steve Shapiro, is originally from Pittsburgh and has family there, which contributed to this latest hockey opportunity.

Deb Shapiro said her sister-in-law, Susie Feldman, suggested that Ben try out for the Ice Renegades. She had positive things to say about the team’s coach, Dom Glavach.

“Apparently Dom saw something in Ben that he likes,” Deb Shapiro said.

Glavach said, “He’s got pretty good size as a goaltender, especially as a 15-year-old.”

He said Ben demonstrated superior mechanics and reaction speed and has “a lot of raw ability there that is definitely something that we can build on.”

“Right away, I think he’s a guy that can get in between the pipes and play against quality teams,” he said.

Deb Shapiro is preparing herself for a long absence.

“He’ll be gone for the whole school year and probably just home to visit maybe at Christmas and spring break and maybe part of the summer,” she said.

She recalled a friend’s son who was in a similar situation. He strung together successes to the point he never did return home.

“If things go well this year, and he makes another team or the same team next year, we’re probably looking at the same situation where he won’t be home again except for visiting,” she said.

Ben said the move is bittersweet. He’s excited about the new opportunities awaiting him, but he will miss his family and his friends at King’s Fork High School.

Glavach said the team gets players from states like New York or Ohio, but due to the distance, “We don’t normally get guys from Virginia.”

He said the experience will help transform Ben into a man. Leaving home early, he explained, “is very difficult for a family and for childhood kind of relationships, but it also prepares you for the long haul. What it shows is a commitment to move from one level to the next.”

Ben’s mother is sad about potentially having an empty nest three years early, but she said, “His dad and I have tried to do everything we can to give him the best opportunity that we can, and right now this is the best opportunity he has, so how do you take that away from him?”

Adding to benefits while in Pennsylvania, Ben will have lessons with nationally-acclaimed goalie coach Shane Clifford.

In terms of his time playing in the PAHL and NJPHL, Ben said his goal “when I’m done playing with them is to hopefully play junior or in college.”

He will stay with his aunt and uncle, Susie and Bruce Feldman, who are experienced hockey parents after having a son who also played.