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More honors for Dorrington

Thursday, 08.14.2008 / 10:00 AM / History

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

Art Dorrington has remained a hockey pioneer long after his playing days were over, as he continues to run the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation in Atlantic City, N.J. His efforts have landed him multiple honors, as well as his upcoming inclusion into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
A bit of frustration, a quick decision, it could change your whole life. That's what happened to Art Dorrington.

Dorrington, the first black professional hockey player in the United States and a founding member of the NHL's diversity efforts, will be inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame at The Adam Clayton Powell State Building in New York City on Saturday, Aug. 16.

Dorrington is being honored not only for his playing career, but also for his nurturing of Atlantic City youngsters through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, one of 30 programs sponsored by the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone initiative, a charitable effort that provides support and unique programming to not-for-profit youth hockey organizations across North America.  Since its inception, Hockey is for Everyone has exposed more than 40,000 boys and girls to unique hockey experiences.

Dorrington's foundation has provided educational and athletic opportunities to several hundred inner-city youths.

Dorrington was a product of the black hockey leagues in Nova Scotia who switched over to the integrated senior league there and got an offer to play in an amateur league in Connecticut. New York Rangers' officials saw Dorrington one day in 1950 when his team practiced in Madison Square Garden.

"A friend of mine in Nova Scotia got me a tryout with a team in New Milford, Conn., so I gave it a try," Dorrington recalled. "The Rangers asked me if I would like to play for the New York Rovers, their affiliate in the Eastern Hockey League. The team was on the road so I walked around New York City for a couple of days. I was getting homesick and bored and wanted to go back to Connecticut, so the Rangers told me to go play a week for the Atlantic City Sea Gulls and they'd take a look at me there. I did well in my tryout and the coach asked if I could finish the season there and I did.

"I liked it, going from a city, New York, that was too big for my liking to Atlantic City, which I liked a lot," Dorrington continued. "It changed my whole life. I met my wife, Dorothie, there and we were married 54 years until she passed away in 2004. That's one of the reasons I stayed on in Atlantic City."

After serving in the U.S. Army, Dorrington returned to the Eastern League, with the Philadelphia Ramblers, but he played only 11 more games.

"I wasn't in the shape I needed for hockey," Dorrington said. "I needed at least another week, but they wanted me to play. I was in a game in Clinton, N.Y., and I got a breakaway. An opposing player stuck out his leg and tripped me. I broke my femur and it ended my career. Dorrington tried a comeback three seasons later but lasted only five games.

"The Sea Gulls folded in 1954 and there was no more hockey until the ECHL's Boardwalk Bullies from 2001-04. So, I played for Johnstown, Washington and Philadelphia, but I kept my home in Atlantic City and returned every summer."

Dorrington was a fine EHL player, leading the league in scoring in 1955 while with the Washington Lions. He scored 30 or more goals three years in a row, all with different teams. His No. 16 Sea Gulls' jersey has been retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He was a fine skater and a good shooter but only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds.

"After I retired, they built an outdoor rink, the Sea Skate Ice Pavilion, on the boardwalk and the builder knew me and asked me to help start the rink," Dorrington said. "I started the hockey program and then an official with Ice Hockey In Harlem read about us in the New York Times. They asked me to come talk to the kids in Harlem. They explained their program to me and I thought, 'why can't we do this in Atlantic City?' I went to the mayor and people around the city and they were all for it. They helped us out, gave us ice time and money to purchase equipment.

"We're in our 11th year and I never thought it would go this far. We get 40-to-50 kids a year and about 10 stick with it. I'd say we've had about 400 kids who have stuck with our program. It's important to know that we don't stress hockey, we stress education and opportunities, to make them better citizens. All of our teachers are state certified, mostly volunteers from the local schools. We address the drug problem and other problems and we bring in doctors and other health consultants.

"We didn't play competitive hockey until two years ago," Dorrington said. "Mostly, we just let them scrimmage and get some exercise. But we went to the Hockey in the Hood tournament two years ago in Detroit and won our division. Went undefeated."

Dorrington is facing higher costs now that the Sea Skate rink has been torn down.

"The Philadelphia Flyers built the SkateZone here and we play out of there now," he said. "We run two fundraisers a year and try to get sponsors. (Troy) Condurso and Sons, a local construction company, helped sponsor our June charity gold tournament and the Borgata casino helped sponsor our installation and awards dinner the past two years.

Dorrington's on-ice achievements for various Eastern Hockey League teams, his Atlantic City Sea Gulls jersey has been retired to the Hockey Fall of Fame.
"Karma says that good works get repaid and maybe that's happening to Dorrington, who was also an excellent baseball player. He played during the summer for a team managed by John Henry "Pop" Lloyd. Years later, Dorrington and others lobbied to get Lloyd into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Their efforts were rewarded in 1997. Now, Dorrington is receiving a similar honor.

"I was a charter member of the committee that worked on getting 'Pop' into Cooperstown and we had a lot of help from Larry Hogan, a black historian at Union County College here in New Jersey," Dorrington said. "We still have the committee and we bring in Negro League veterans every year. When we started, we had a couple of dozen players still alive but we're down to seven or eight.

"I played ball for Pop, a very soft-spoken guy, and, at the time, I didn't know much about him. After I retired, I worked for the Atlantic City Department of Recreation. We built Pop Lloyd Stadium right across from my house and I continue to maintain the field.

"Honus Wagner said Lloyd was one of the greatest shortstops who ever played and that he would have played major-league baseball, if he wasn't black."

Wagner played from 1897-1917 and won the National League batting title eight times. Baseball historian Bill James ranks Wagner as the game's greatest shortstop and second-best player behind Babe Ruth. Wagner's comment was high praise, but Ted Williams went further, calling Lloyd the best ball player he ever saw.

The luncheon to honor Dorrington, as well as Jo Jo White, Frank Budd, Burgess Owens, Abner Haynes, Lacey O'Neal, Joe B. Bryant, Alex Ramos, Marian Muhammed and the late Rep. Ralph H. Metcalfe, will begin with a "VIP Reception with the Stars" at 12 p.m., followed by lunch at 1 p.m. and the induction ceremony at 2 p.m. The Adam Clayton Powell State Building is located at 163 West 125th Street in New York City.  
     
The event is the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame's scholarship fund-raiser for students to attend historically Black Colleges and Universities. It helps students from economically challenged backgrounds fund their education through its Academic Achievers Award Program.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.afrosportshall.com. For further information contact Wendy Welch at 404-312-2100 or wendy@connectwelch.com, or Arif Khatib at afrosportshall@aol.com, or 510-508-3309.





 

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