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Unforgettable day for Fenway kids

By John McGourty - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- With smiles as wide as the outfield and feet that fly, dozens of youth-hockey players skated on a center field rink at Fenway Park Friday before and during the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

The young boys and girls belong to four organizations, including the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation of Philadelphia; SCORE Boston; the Boston Red Sox and Bruins FUNdamentals.

Defenseman Tracy Robinson, 10, from Philadelphia has been playing hockey for four years. His excitement was obvious.

"I think it's really great that we can get to play at Fenway Park and get to meet the players," Robinson said. "I'm having a great time."

ESYHF works closely with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation and the School District of Philadelphia. Less than one year ago, ESYHF came to the rescue of the City's public ice rinks by forging an agreement to fund, staff, and manage the five public ice rinks, three of which had been slated for closure due to budget restrictions.
 
Founded in 2005, the mission of the foundation is to use hockey to help educate young people on how to succeed in the game of life. ESYHF has grown to annually serve more than 2,500 children at 10 sites throughout the Greater Philadelphia Region, keeping its youngsters fully immersed in programs that uniquely blend healthy recreational activities with much-needed academic assistance and character building lessons that enable them to succeed both on the ice and in the classroom.

Robinson was joined by teammates Jasmine Martinez, Solomon Johnson, Grey Rumain and the twins, Solomon and Sammy Johnson. The team was coached by Jim Britt and Jan Koziara.

Sammy was busy in net as the players from SCORE Boston swarmed around him.

"I think it's great being here and having fun," he said.

"I love to make goals and it's fun to play after school. We play at the Simons rink in Philadelphia."

Superintendent Bruce Holloway, Boston's chief of detectives, started the Boston Urban Hockey Association SCORE Boston in 1995. The program provides inner-city youth with the opportunity to participate in the sport of hockey. The objectives of SCORE Boston are to use hockey programs as a platform to foster an environment for youth in which they can learn life skills that reflect the core values of the program: sportsmanship, character, opportunity, respect and education.

The not-for-profit organization is geared for girls and boys between the ages of 5-17 and is staffed by a highly motivated team of committed volunteers and coordinators with a vast array of hockey and educational experience. The program consists of on and off-ice instruction. The on-ice instruction teaches the basic and necessary skills associated with ice-skating and hockey.
Each weekly session ends with a scrimmage game where the players utilize their skills. Adolescent participants have leadership opportunities on the ice and in the classroom in SCORE's Jr. Coaches program.

Holloway said he gets more than he's given when former players approach him and tell him about their jobs and families. Holloway and his assistants have put in a lot of work over the years and this opportunity to skate during the Winter Classic is a highlight for the program.

"Imagine the memories they're going to have in 20 years," Holloway said. "They can tell their kids and grandkids they played hockey at Fenway Park."

"When my mom and dad told me I'd be playing at Fenway Park, I was really excited," said Kevin Swan, who has been playing at the Milton, Mass., rink for four years.

His teammates, Andrew Ervin, a fan of David "Big Papi" Ortiz, and Emma Tobin, who divides her loyalties between Zdeno Chara and Jonathan Papelbon, looked around at the nearly 40,000 fans in the broad expanse at the ballpark and said, "It's awesome. I could have never imagined this."

Swan was also joined by SCORE Boston teammates Ezekiel Santiago and Talia Bode Ward.

The Bruins FUNdamentals program was initiated by FMC Ice Sports and the Boston Bruins as a way to introduce new skaters to the sport and help them prepare for entry into youth-hockey programs. The program's goal is to teach the fundamentals of ice hockey through various drills, personalized instruction and game simulation, while ensuring that each and every skater is having as much fun as possible.

The Bruins FUNdamentals program operates at 25 rinks in Massachusetts, said Manager Lori DiGiacomo, who was joined by Tom Songin, a former Boston Bruins player.

"When my mom and dad told me I'd be playing at Fenway Park, I was really excited." -- Kevin Swan

Coaches Pat Kelleher, Paul Nahigian and Kevin Kavanagh brought a group that included Ty Lema, Nicholas Forbes, Ryan Affonso, Jacob Sanville, Hannah Marmor, Conor Belcher, Gavin Lessard, Ryan Skoczylas, T.J. McHugh, Aidan Walker, Nicholas Patterson, Jake Kelleher, Elsie Buckley, Marshall Meyer and Daniel Leger.

Red Sox Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy has played a dual role in the preparations for the Winter Classic, as a team executive and coach of the Red Sox team. He was assisted by Tim Kelleher, one of the Boston College goalies, along with Scott Clemmensen, when they won the 2000 NCAA championship.

"We've watched with amazement the work the NHL has done in transforming this building," Kennedy said. "The Winter Classic is a wonderful idea."

Jimmy Kennedy is only 6 1/2 years old but he seemed to have a clear idea of the importance of this opportunity to skate on a rink in centerfield at Fenway Park.

"My dad told me I was going to skate on the little rink at the Winter Classic. I've been playing for three years and I'm on the Hartford Whalers team this year."

Kennedy was joined by teammates Jack Carroll, Brendan Monahan, and brothers Jack and Max Goodman.