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NHL.com: Time to celebrate Hockey Across America Weekend!

Friday, 02.13.2009 / 2:22 PM / Community
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NHL.com: Time to celebrate Hockey Across America Weekend!
Many U.S. cities are offering a way for fans to take part in fun hockey activities.

Hockey in the Hood back again

When Martin Luther King Jr. boldly issued the "Birmingham Manifesto," demanding an end to segregation, from the Alabama jail in 1963, there had only been one black player in the history of the NHL, Willie O'Ree, who broke in in 1958. Today, there are 16 black players on NHL rosters and 13 more progressing through the system. All told, there are 49 minority players in the NHL, which has forged alliances with 23 youth programs across the country under the umbrella of NHL Diversity.

One of those youth organizations, Detroit's Hockey In The Hood, will host the 20-team Hockey In The Hood V, Friday through Sunday, at Jack Adams Arena in Detroit. Some select games will also be held at Detroit's City Sports Center.

O'Ree, the director of youth development for NHL Diversity, will be on hand to drop the ceremonial first puck at 2 p.m. Saturday. O'Ree will be bringing two special gifts. He will be accompanied by the Stanley Cup and the Jack Adams Trophy that annually honors the best coach in the NHL. The trophies will be on display at Jack Adams Arena from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Saturday.

Bring the family and have fun because all the events are free. Hockey In The Hood V is a major event, bringing in youth-hockey teams, from Mites to Midgets, from Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and the District of Columbia. There's even a team coming from Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. There will also be a sledge-hockey game Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

The annual Hockey in the Hood tournament breaks down stereotypes and brings diverse inner-city hockey teams together for a tournament that is capped off by the presentation of the Willie O'Ree championship trophy, the Willie O'Cup. In 2008, Hockey In The Hood IV celebrated the 50th anniversary of O'Ree's becoming the first black player in the NHL.

Blacks have enjoyed great success in the NHL since O'Ree's breakthrough. Grant Fuhr, now the goaltending coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, won five Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. Fuhr was the MVP of the 1986 NHL All-Star Game. Calgary Flames right winger Jarome Iginla has won two Rocket Richard Trophies for leading the NHL in goals. He's a future Hall of Famer. San Jose Sharks right winger Mike Grier won the 1995 NCAA championship while attending King's alma mater.

Hockey In The Hood V is one of the sanctioned events of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone Initiative, which provides support and unique programming to non-profit youth-hockey organizations across North America that are committed to offering children of all backgrounds opportunities to play hockey. The initiative is supported by NHL member clubs, players, NHL alumni and fans. To date, Hockey is for Everyone has exposed close to 45,000 boys and girls to unique hockey experiences.

To celebrate this initiative, the National Hockey League hosts the annual Hockey is for Everyone Month in February. The League-wide initiative includes numerous activities to promote the diversity of the game that involve our clubs, players, alumni, fans and grass-roots diversity programs, all with the goal of raising awareness and celebrating the growth of the game.

-- John McGourty

Wear your favorite hockey sweater to work or school Friday -- once again it's Hockey Weekend Across America, presented by Reebok. Get out to a game on Saturday or just take the kids skating -- it's Bring a Friend to the Rink Day, sponsored by the NHL. On Sunday, it's Celebrate Your Local Hockey Heroes, sponsored by Liberty Mutual's Responsible Sports.

"We look to build on the success of last year's inaugural Hockey Weekend Across America," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "It's important to engage the entire hockey community in this effort and, with the momentum built last year, we believe year two will only be better."

The Hockey Across America effort is aimed at two major objectives with a weekend of events at the local and national level to promote hockey.

First, the initiative celebrates the game and all involved in the sport throughout the nation using all means possible. Also, it provides opportunities for those who haven't played hockey to try it, resulting ultimately in more people playing the game at all levels.

USA Hockey recommends hockey fans and organizations honor those that have helped make hockey the game it is today, especially at the local level.

Most NHL players say the long-term effort made by their parents is one of, if not the most important, reason for their success. In that case, parents certainly qualify for some recognition this weekend.
 
The National Hockey League, in addition to sponsoring Saturday's activities, will host related activities in several American cities. There are eight NHL games being played in the United States Saturday.

In all, 11 NHL teams have scheduled events for this weekend.

The Phoenix Coyotes will donate street-hockey equipment and a day of instruction from the Coyotes Hockey Development Team to the five schools with the most students wearing hockey sweaters. On Saturday, the Coyotes will offer ticket specials to all Arizona hockey players for the game versus the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena. The team will also honor local hockey heroes during an intermission of Saturday's game.

Flyers left winger Josh Gratton will host an assembly at Moorestown Upper Elementary School on Friday. The Nashville Predators, meanwhile, are making their home game against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins the centerpiece of their efforts.

The New York Rangers are holding a learn-to-skate session at 2 p.m. ET, followed by a sled-hockey demonstration, a youth-hockey clinic and a family and fan appreciation public skate at the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park.

The Los Angeles Kings have found a way to encourage kids to wear their sweaters Friday and Saturday. The public is invited to Friday morning's practice that will be followed by a session of Chalk Talk, hockey instruction. Kids 16 or under who wear a hockey sweater to Saturday's game against the Oilers at the STAPLES Center will get a free ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket.  The first 200 kids to pre-register will also get a free Kings giveaway.

A member of the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association will sing the National Anthem before the Blue Jackets host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. The Chill is also offering free on-ice beginner-hockey instruction Saturday afternoon. Helmets, skates and sticks are provided. Register for one of the two sessions at www.theChiller.com

The Anaheim Ducks will launch a rink development program, entitled The Rinks, as part of the weekend's events. The launch and ceremonial first game will take place in Corona at Anaheim Hockey Club.

It's an amateur hockey bonanza this weekend at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. The Hurricanes are hosting an amateur-hockey tripleheader Friday night, starting at 5:30 p.m. ET and will host two more games Saturday before the Saturday night game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Chicago-area youth-hockey players will be handing out free skating passes to local rinks at their schools Friday, in addition to wearing their sweaters. Tommy Hawk, the Blackhawks' mascot, will visit Nettelhorst and Westfield schools to hand out flyers. Numerous Chicago rinks will hold free skating sessions Saturday. Check out www.onegoal.com/Illinois

Blackhawks players will be visiting local rinks Sunday.

It's always a big deal when the Montreal Canadiens come to town, and Friday night will be even better at the Pepsi Center when the Avalanche will give a free ticket to anyone 16 and under who wears a local youth-hockey sweater and is accompanied by an adult buying a ticket. Hyland Hills Hockey will host a OneGoal Skate Saturday for any child interested in playing ice hockey.

The Avalanche are holding an essay contest for kids who can explain who their hockey hero is and why. This person can be a favorite coach, timekeeper, official, player or anyone else that is influential in the youth player's hockey life. The writer of the best email will receive a suite to the Atlanta Thrashers vs. Colorado Avalanche game March 10. Emails must be received at heroes@pepsicenter.com by Sunday, Feb. 22, and should be no longer than 150 words.

Go to http://www.usahockey.com/hwaa/default.aspx?NAV=AF_01&id=253408&DetailedNews=yes for more information about the NHL's support for USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America.

If you're not in the vicinity of an NHL city, 18 of the 20 ECHL teams in the United States are offering special ticket packages that include a donation being made to USA Hockey. Participating teams are Alaska, Bakersfield, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dayton, Elmira, Florida, Gwinnett, Idaho, Johnstown, Mississippi, Ontario, Phoenix, Reading, Stockton, Trenton, Utah and Wheeling. More information can be found on the team Web sites.

USA Hockey is promoting dozens of events at rinks, big and small, around the country. Here are some of the highlights.

Twenty youth-hockey teams will play in the Hockey In The Hood tournament Saturday at Jack Adams Arena in Detroit to promote diversity in hockey. The Hollis, N.H., Pee Wee team will lay a wreath Saturday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery. In Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico Lobos will host a skills-development clinic Friday.

In Laurel, Md., the DC Firefighters will play the USA Wounded Warriors at the Gardens Ice House, in addition to several other special hockey games. The women's hockey team at California (Pa.) University is putting on a one-hour free hockey clinic for girls of all ages on Sunday at Rostraver Ice Garden.

The Tri-Cities Americans are hosting the Edmonton Oil Kings in a Western Hockey League junior game Friday night at 7 p.m. PT. The Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association is urging all its players and parents to attend the WHL game.

For more information, see http://www.usahockey.com/hwaa/default.aspx?NAV=AF_01&ID=193826

Author: John McGourty | NHL.com Staff Writer


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