Though he’d spend four hours per day on the ice as part of his own age group during summer hockey camps, Nico Mallozzi had an uncanny knack for finding his way back out there, even if it wasn’t technically his time, according to the former hockey director at the facility where the New Canaan boy learned to skate.
“He was a handful,” Marvin Minkler recalled with a smile at Darien Ice Rink on Saturday afternoon, as the New Canaan High School varsity team warmed up for its first home game since Nico, a 10-year-old who played with the CT RoughRiders youth hockey club, died unexpectedly on Jan. 14 following a brief illness.
“He would find a way to make it out there with the Bantams,” Minkler recalled. “It was like, ‘How did Nico get out there?’ I would speak to Coach Tomasz Piatek. Tomasz is like, ‘He just found his way out onto the ice. I wasn’t going to say No to that.’ He’d just wear you down. When you said ‘No’ to him, he would make his mom come over, and Mimma would come over and say, ‘Listen, I know you’re going to say No, but he wanted me to ask.’ And you could see the puppy-dog eyes in the background and you were like, ‘OK if it’s less than 12, he can go out there.’ He was a quintessential rink rat. He worked on his game, he wanted to get better. He wasn’t just a player—he was an elite player. He was on track to be an outstanding player.”
The West School fourth-grader’s untimely passing has sent New Canaan reeling, with shocked members of the boy’s school, faith and youth sports communities sharing remembrances of a vivacious, fun-loving and gregarious youth. For the RoughRiders and wider hockey community—families across multiple towns, tied together by predawn practices, faraway travel games and dedication to a sport whose athletes tend to start young—the loss of one of their own, and a boy so singular as they describe Nico, has been especially painful.
The New Canaan High School boys’ varsity ice hockey team is dedicating this season to Nico, and programs distributed before Saturday’s game versus Notre Dame-Fairfield were imprinted on the cover with a logo built around the boy’s uniform No. 7, name, dates and the words ‘In Loving Memory.’
Coach now of a RoughRiders team that includes one of Nico’s brothers, Minkler addressed the crowd during a pregame ceremony, thanking NCHS coach Clark Jones and the team on behalf of the Mallozzi family—father Joe, mother Mimma, brothers Joey and Michael and sister Marina.
“These are tough times,” Minkler said, adding that there’s “no better way to pay tribute” and celebrate Nico’s life than with a hockey game.
“Nico, since the time he put on skates, that is all he ever wanted to do, was get out on the ice and play,” Minkler said on the PA. (New Canaan would win the game, 5-4.)
Saying Nico has a disarming and “mischievous little smile,” Minkler remembered during an interview with NewCanaanite.com that the boy was unusual in how his popularity ran across all age groups within the hockey community.
“Everybody knew Nico,” Minkler said. “All the high school kids, because he would creep into the locker room and hang out with the older guys. Clark Jones would run a clinic for the girls, and Nico and Joey, if their sister Marina was skating, would wiggle their way out onto the ice. They loved it. That’s all they cared about.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Aloysius Church, 21 Cherry St., New Canaan, 10 a.m., on Monday, Jan. 22. Entombment will follow at St. John Cemetery in Norwalk. The wake will also be held at St. Aloysius Church on Sunday, Jan. 21; Nico’s family will receive friends from 2 to 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the USA Hockey Foundation, the philanthropic arm of USA Hockey.