People that have met him know who he is. People he has met never get forgotten. That is the type of man he is. Everyone wants to be him, and even his enemies (too few to mention) wanted to be around him. The Rutgers Hockey community has lost a true person, player and human being.
Josh loved hockey more than most things. However, when it came to his team, nothing could ever break that bond.
He put team and people in front of his own self. A true man at that. No words can describe him better than self-less.
Josh came to Rutgers in the 2005 season. He came to us at a time that hope seemed far away. That another looming season was upon us. You see, back then our seasonal record was typical in having 1 win accompanied by 26 losses. With the movie “The Matrix” still fresh in my head, was about the first time I saw him skate. My heart jumped for joy as I said to myself “he is the one”. He is the one that can raise this program out of the dark-ages and back to a time when winning was, in fact, a habit. A true-program changer Josh was. After speaking to him for the first time, I realized we had more than just a program-changer, we had a kid fully prepared in his life journey to take on anything he faced and his ideals and character were second to none.
Josh’s hockey accomplishments were many. He helped Captain the Rutgers Team for 2 straight years, he garnished over 100 points in his collegiate career, he was nominated as a 1st Team All-Star in the NECHL in 2007 & 2008, An ACHA Academic All-American in 2007-08, 2006 Kevin Mead Scoring Title winner at Rutgers, 2007 Simonson & Earle ‘64 Achievement Award winner, 2007 & 2008 Geof Gould ‘62 MVP Award winner, and he was the first-ever Rutgers player to be invited to the first-ever ACHA All-Star game in 2008. As you can see from Josh’s accomplishments, the program had changed. Rutgers Hockey was on the map. Josh Esformes did this.
His work-ethic was astounding as even after college, Josh could not settle in doing mundane things. He told me his ultimate goal was to play Pro hockey. He would do anything and everything to see to it. This past year, he played in his first Pro game.
While seeking his dreams, he also found something that he had great interest in investigating further. You see, after he graduated, he had helped me in some clinics we had put on at the Ponds. His affect on the kids was so profound, on top of himself having a ball doing it, he wanted to pursue coaching. Josh was put in charge of two youth teams this year. As the season began and his pursuit of playing Pro came to fruition, Josh had to leave the kids for a while to chase his life-long dream. During that time, the kids grew restless in asking “When is Coach Josh coming back?” All I heard as the hockey director was that same question, day in and day out. That is the impact that Josh had on everyone. To the kids, he was a god-send as his knowledge of the game and his way of coaching his kids was, in fact, the best I have ever seen.
On Saturday, December 11th, while the Rutgers team was away on a road trip in Ithaca, Josh and I did a Peewee game together. For the majority of the game, I let Josh take control of the bench, as I sat back and watched. I could not have been more proud of anyone else, not to mention being a former player of mine. I realized only today after going through my text messages from that day after the game, Josh thanked me for coming to the game, because originally it would only be him on the bench. But he thanked me for being there because “it was cool to see how I worked on the bench”. When this whole time I should have been thanking him more for what he has done with my kids and teams and people he has changed for the better. Words cannot relay the true thanks in my heart for Josh just being Josh. Words cannot describe my thanks to him. He has changed all that have known him. He has made us all better people.
I write this article as his coach, friend, and supposed mentor. When in the end, it is “I” that has learned a great deal from him. He teaches us all to put ourselves last; that team, friends and family come first over anything. Thank you Josh. Thank you.
Rutgers Ice Hockey