Every year, NHL teams participate in and host different programs that help introduce hockey to fans who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn the sport. The teams also celebrate the league's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative which aims to teach hockey to all who are interested and build more inclusive hockey communities that drive positive social change. The Devils are doing their part by participating in and hosting various programs and clinics. They also include these initiatives through different outlets at Devils home games.
From June through November, the Devils joined with Special Olympics New Jersey for the organization's inaugural year of the Learn to Skate program - the first of its kind in the Special Olympics movement. The program was offered at five rinks throughout the state, all of which are rink partners with the Devils. At the end of each rink's session, the Devils provided on-ice support and off-ice education about the sport of hockey to Special Olympics athletes and their families.
The five different rink partners of the New Jersey Devils donated, in total, 25 hours of ice time for the Special Olympics New Jersey Learn to Skate. Individuals from local hockey clubs also volunteered as instructors for the sessions. The program helped the athletes build confidence, learn the benefits of ice skating, and discover what makes ice hockey accessible.
The program also connected people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to local ice hockey, figure skating, and speed skating teams through Special Olympics New Jersey, USA Hockey and American Special Hockey Association. Through combining skating skills with sport education and connecting points in the community, the Devils and Special Olympics New Jersey hope individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities feel more confident hopping on the ice.
The Devils also took part in celebrating International Day of Disabled Persons when they hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night at Prudential Center. The Devils honored the day by having nine-year-old Joel Tapia from the Woodbridge Warriors Sled Hockey Team be the Junior Captain of the Game.
As a part of being Junior Captain, Joel had the opportunity to high-five New Jersey Devils players as they exited the locker room to take the ice prior to the game.
He also joined the starting line-up along the blue line for the National Anthem, where he received a special in-game recognition.
Fans can be part of one of the Devils many Hockey Is For Everyone initiatives during American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) Night at the Devils home game on December 14. The Devils will have one representative from each of the five local ASHA clubs join the team on the blue line for the National Anthem. ASHA will also be the 50/50 beneficiary that evening, where fans can donate by participating in the raffle.
To purchase tickets to the game on December 14, visit newjerseydevils.com/tickets. For more information on the diversity initiatives the Devils support throughout the year, visit newjerseydevils.com/diversity. To follow the New Jersey Devils on social media, find them at @NJDevils on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To follow Special Olympics New Jersey on social media, fans can find them at @SONewJersey on Twitter or at @specialolympicsnj on Instagram. To learn more about ASHA, visit americanspecialhockey.org.