NHL, Marshall Fund Giving Scholarships for HBCUs
Written by Frederick Cosby, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Thursday, 01 March 2012 06:44
The National Hockey League scored a goal with the nation's minority youth hockey players Wednesday with assists by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and NHL Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.
At a hearing on Capitol Hill, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league and the Marshall fund will join forces and provide four-year scholarships for qualified participants in the NHL "Hockey is for Everyone" initiative to attend one of the nation's 47 historically black colleges and universities.
"The Hockey is for Everyone initiative gives young people the opportunity to be exposed to hockey, which acts as a catalyst in building character and developing life skills through the lessons learned on the ice," Bettman said "Now, through our partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, we are extending our commitment by helping young men and women achieve their academic goals."
The scholarship program is significant, as tens of thousands of children nationwide participate in minority-oriented youth hockey programs affiliated with the "Hockey is for Everyone" effort. There are nearly three dozen hockey programs that stretch from Alaska to Florida that draw black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian and urban white children into what's incorrectly believed to be a lily-white sport.
In the NHL, about 20 black players are currently on team rosters, including Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals, Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets.
Some of the programs that will benefit from the scholarship venture include New York City's Ice Hockey in Harlem, the Detroit Hockey Association, Ohio's Columbus Ice Hockey Club, Philadelphia's Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and Washington's Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club.
What would the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall say about his name being linked to ice hockey? One of his sons, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., is an avid Washington Capitals fan and a regular at games. Another son, John Marshall, is a youth hockey coach. Both played men's hockey in their youth.
"The emergence of a partnership such as this between the National Hockey League and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund provides an opportunity for African-American youth to expand their horizons and participate in a sport that has not been historically embraced," said Johnny C. Taylor, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund's president and CEO. "This not only serves as an opportunity for more engagement with the sport of hockey, but it is also a 'pathway to higher education.'"
The Fort Dupont team, the oldest minority hockey program in the country, got an additional boost from Capitals owner Leonsis, who donated $50,000 to their home rink, which is located in Washington's Anacostia section, not far from Frederick Douglass' historic home.
Leonsis isn’t the only NHL owner to open his wallet in the cause of expanding hockey's outreach to non-traditional communities. Philadelphia Flyers founder Ed Snider established his Snider Hockey program in 2005, and it quickly mushroomed to more than 2,500 skaters.
When the program encountered difficulty finding enough ice time for the kids to practice and play, Snider contributed $6.5 million to match a grant that enabled a $13 million restoration project in Philadelphia that renovated three rundown public rinks – the Laura Sims Skatehouse, the Scanlon Ice Rink and the Simons Rink.
The three rinks are now fully enclosed and have lighting, boards and glass that rival any NHL rink. Snider Hockey now hopes to have 6,000 kids in the program.
"When I see what's going on in our inner cities today with our young boys and girls and the worry they face with guns and drugs, it concerns me very much," Snider said at the hockey hearing Wednesday. "We use hockey as the hook and bring kids into our program and provide them with educational assistance and tutoring. Our participants must maintain good grades or they won’t be able to play hockey in our programs."
Bettman and Taylor said they have more than $120,000 in commitments thus far for the HBCU scholarship program, which will be available starting in the 2013-14 academic year to students who maintain a 3.0 grade-point average or better.
Members of the Congressional Hockey Caucus and some of Washington's high-powered lobbyists will do their part to earn money for the scholarship program when they square off this Sunday at the annual Lawmakers vs. Lobbyists hockey game at D.C. Verizon Center.
Last year's game raised more than $100,000 to benefit the Fort Dupont Ice Rink. The bipartisan Lawmakers team features Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) who's been walking around Capitol Hill with raccoon eyes and a broken nose courtesy of a hockey game he played in during a congressional recess; Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Il), Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN).
But there will be one notable subtraction from the lawmaker’s squad. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a goaltender, was forced to resign from the House of Representatives last year amid a sexting scandal.