The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir reports that the Washington Capitals will hold a full-team practice at Fort Dupont Ice Arena next season.
The practice is one part of an initiative the Capitals will undertake to show support to the black community and combat systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder due to police brutality. Fort Dupont is Washington DC’s only indoor hockey rink, and the Fort Dupont Cannons is the oldest minority hockey club in North America.
“They are an open-hearted organization and I admire them greatly,” Neal Henderson, the co-founder of the Cannons and a USA Hockey Hall of Famer, said to El-Bashir. “They’ve done quite a bit for a lot of teams around the area, including us. They do it and they’re not looking for praise. They do things that you don’t always read about in the newspaper, or you don’t always see on TV. You hear about a lot of stuff from word of mouth.”
Over the years, several Capitals players have hosted individual skates for the Fort Dupont Cannons, either at MedStar Capitals Iceplex and Fort Dupont, including Alex Ovechkin.
“I was a little kid once too and my dream was to skate with some NHL players or some guys who I knew and I grew up watching,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and for them.”
Most recently, Capitals defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler and Nick Jensen visited the rink in February while former Capital Joel Ward held an outdoor street hockey clinic a few weeks later.
“What sticks out to me is the kids,” Ward said of his experiences with the Cannons. “I love their faces when I go out to practice. Some of them haven’t even watched a Caps game before, but just to have the jersey on, to see their faces light up was cool. I’ve had a lot of great moments playing on the ice, but the off-ice is what really had an impact on the kids and some of the people in the community. That was really rewarding.”
“Black Lives Matter,” Wilson said. “After taking some time to think about the best way to offer my support, I’ve decided that one way to start is to take action in my own community. I will be making a donation to the ‘East Of The River Mutual Aid Fund’ as well as to the Fort Dupont Cannons Hockey Program. The Cannons, based in DC, are the oldest minority hockey program in the country. I am contributing to these funds today, but I am committing to learn, to listen, and to support going forward.”
According to El-Bashir, the practice will be an all-day celebration of the Cannons. Students from DC public schools and other area programs will be invited to skate later in the day.
The Capitals rarely practice away from their practice facility in Ballston, VA. In 2014, they took the ice at Navy’s McMullen Ice Arena and in Chevy Chase days ahead of the 2011 Winter Classic against the Penguins.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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