Hockey is a fringe sport in the United States, but that’s slowly starting to change. The NHL now supports initiatives that lower the barrier to play hockey, and recently awarded the Washington Capitals $600k to grow ball and street programs in the area.
Last week, the Capitals announced that they had just completed refurbishing four street hockey rinks in the DMV, including three facilities in Virginia.
WDVM‘s Allie Berube toured the updated Hagerstown, Maryland, rink and there’s one thing that’s immediately clear: it’s making a big difference in the community already.
— Allie Berube (@allieberube) August 5, 2017
One month ago, the street hockey rink in Fairgrounds Park was in tatters.
“It was actually really crappy. The green tiles were coming off. I tried playing goalie and the net was falling apart,” Hagerstown Bulldogs goalie Jaz Pellegrino said.
But the Capitals stepped in and replaced the goals and the entire playing surface. The new rink drains water and dirt away to keep the court clean and make the game faster.
“I’ve seen a lot of the outdoor surfaces and they’re definitely not up to this standard,” Mike O’Neil, owner of O’Neil Hockey said. “The Capitals are starting to turn things around and starting to have some monster seasons out there. We’ve seen a hockey explosion [in the area].”
The Capitals are also donating hockey equipment to the local schools
“Just in our tiny little town, there’s 200 kids in the elementary school and six or seven of them got into hockey because they donated the equipment,” Michelle Shaffer, a local hockey mom from Boonsboro, said. “The Capitals have been so super generous to Hagerstown recently.”
Beyond extending the team’s brand — the team’s logo is boldly emblazoned at center ice — the Capitals’ investment into the Washington County park and surrounding schools will help give kids an opportunity to play the sport for the very first time.
“Hockey’s all about giving back to people,” Pellegrino said. “I mean you’ll see it other sports, but hockey more so, because teams will go out and do hospital trips to see kids and stuff. Simple things like this. Hagerstown doesn’t even have stuff like this. There’s not even many hockey kids. We barely even have a program. It’s just cool to see they’re helping us grow.”
— Allie Berube (@allieberube) August 4, 2017
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