WASHINGTON, D.C. – Washington Capitals Donald Brashear, Los Angeles King Wayne Simmonds and Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player, visited the Fort Dupont Ice Arena where they skated with the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club Wednesday evening. Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only full-size indoor ice arena in Washington, D.C., and the club is the oldest minority youth hockey program in the U.S.
The visit highlighted Hockey is for Everyone month, which is an initiative that runs throughout February and celebrates hockey’s growth and diversity. Hockey is for Everyone provides support and unique programming to non-profit youth hockey organizations across North America that are committed to offering children of all backgrounds the opportunity to play hockey. Since its inception, Hockey is for Everyone has exposed more than 45,000 boys and girls to unique hockey experiences.
Brashear, Simmonds and O’Ree spent an hour skating with the kids and teaching them different hockey skills, including shooting drills and skating drills.
“Fort Dupont is such a great program, and I love coming out here and skating with the children,” said Brashear, a third-year member of the Capitals. “It was fun hanging out with the kids, they love playing hockey.”
“This is all about fun, lets have fun tonight,” said O’Ree when he addressed the kids. “It’s important for the children to see Donald and Wayne out here and see that they can be just like them.”
O’Ree was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1935. He was called up to the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League to replace an injured player and made his NHL debut on Jan. 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black player in the League’s history. In a game against Montreal on Jan. 1, 1961, O’Ree scored his first NHL goal, which was also the first goal ever scored by a black player in the NHL. Currently the NHL Diversity Director, O’Ree played 45 NHL games and had 14 points (4g-10a).
Founded in 1978 by Neal Henderson, the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club is a developmental program that provides local and inner-city youth in Washington, D.C., the opportunity to participate in an organized ice hockey program. Participants have a wide range of experience in skating and game play and ages range from eight to 17. The program’s goal is to teach young people discipline, to establish self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and to offer an incentive to excel academically.