Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward visited Fort Dupont Ice Arena on Monday, Feb. 18, helping to run a practice for 60 children from the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club and the Kids on Ice program. The event was held in conjunction with the Capitals celebration of Hockey is for Everyone™ Month, a league wide initiative that offers children of all backgrounds opportunities to play hockey and leverages the sport as a catalyst to teach essential life skills and the core values of hockey: commitment, perseverance and teamwork.
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The session was led by Fort Dupont ice hockey director Neal Henderson. Henderson founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in 1978 as a developmental program that provides local and inner-city youth in Washington, D.C., the opportunity to participate in an organized ice hockey program.
“It’s good that they [the NHL] have Hockey is for Everyone because it shows that the kids who come in here have a representative from the Washington Capitals showing them how and what to expect in playing the game,” said Henderson.
Henderson’s club is the oldest minority hockey program in North America. The program’s goal is to teach young people discipline, self-esteem, a sense of purpose and to offer an incentive to excel academically.
“I teach them life skills first and the respect for the game,” said Henderson. “You learn you have to be disciplined, you have to learn how to work with others.”
This was the second consecutive season that Ward visited the arena to assist with a Kids on Ice practice.
“It’s great to see coach Henderson again,” Ward said following the visit. “What he does for the community here is unbelievable.”
The home rink of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena, is situated on National Park Service land and operated by Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, a nonprofit organization. The arena is the only public, indoor ice rink in the city of Washington and provides skating instruction and classroom activities free of charge, or at highly affordable rates.
“It is very important for the Caps organization to come out and help give back,” said Ward. “Hockey is for everybody, and it’s very important for the NHL and the Washington Capitals to share that message and spread it all across the nation and all across the world. It’s good for the kids to embrace this game and know that hockey is for everyone.”