By Kevin Zalaznik
The New York State Thruway runs 570 miles from Ripley to New York City, passing Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany on the way. The highway has inadvertently become a symbol of success for two members of the Albany Devils who grew up minutes from New York’s concrete canal.
Tim Sestito, 26, is from Rome, which is only 108 miles from the state capital and 250 miles from Newark, N.J.
Nick Palmieri, 21, hails from Utica, N.Y. –- 93 miles from the Times Union Center and 235 from the Prudential Center.
Their path from childhood hockey to the NHL literally runs through Albany where New Jersey’s top developmental team relocated to after four seasons in Lowell, Mass.
“I was very excited when I found out the team was moving to Albany,” Sestito said. “My brother (Tom Sestito, currently playing for Springfield) played in Syracuse the last couple of years and I was a little jealous he got to be home with friends and family.”
“It’s definitely exciting,” Palmieri said. “It’s close to home and I have a bunch of friends in the Albany area. We weren’t sure where exactly I would be; obviously optimistic I’d be in New Jersey, but it’s definitely a good thing that I am close to home. I feel comfortable being here.”
For both Sestito and Palmieri this is the closest they’ve played to their hometowns since their early-to-mid teen years. Sestito played for Plymouth in the Ontario Hockey League when he was 17 years old and Palmieri left home for Northwood Prep in Lake Placid, N.Y. before he was 15.
“It’s making up for lost time being so close to home,” Sestito said.
“This is the closest I’ve played to home since I was 14,” Palmieri said. “For my family, it’s a short drive any night of the week. They really support me and I really think they enjoy the fact they can see pretty much every home game.”
Sestito and Palmieri have both gotten a taste of the NHL and were able to share the excitement when the phone rang with New Jersey on the other line.
“You never know when the call is going to come, but you’re excited when it does,” Palmieri said. “I was lucky to be home and share it with my family right away.”
Sestito played nine games in the NHL last year and added an additional nine this season, while Palmieri appeared in six games for the NHL Devils in 2009-10.
In Albany this season, Sestito has played in eight games, registering a goal and four assists, while Palmieri has appeared in 17 games, posting four goals and a helper.
As much as both players enjoy living so close to home, they’d prefer living and playing in New Jersey.
“It’s what everybody plays for to keep moving up and playing in the best league in the world,” Sestito said. “It’s a great experience and I’ve loved every minute of it.”