A true testament to hockey’s growth in the south is the development of leagues and teams in non-traditional hockey markets. One such area is the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) which is neatly tucked away near Camp Lejune in Jacksonville, NC. This quiet military base is home to the Osprey aircraft, the nation’s largest military air landing strip, and now a full-fledged street hockey league complete with a regulation sized outdoor rink.
On May 24, 2007, the promotions and fan development department traveled nearly two hours to the eastern part of the state to complete its largest equipment donation to date at MCAS. In conjunction with the league-wide NHL Street program, the Hurricanes are able to donate street hockey equipment to local community centers, recreation programs, schools, and now military bases.
“I think it’s tremendous that the sport of hockey has made such an impact on these people’s lives,” said Paul Strand, the ‘Canes Youth & Amateur Hockey Coordinator. “These men and women have made the sport a part of their everyday routine, often playing in friendly competition before the sun comes up. It’s very rewarding to know that the Hurricanes helped in a small way. “
The Marines stationed at the base come from all across the country, but some who greeted the promotions and fan development department with salutes and handshakes proved to be from the heart of the south. These are men and women who may be from non-traditional hockey markets, but aren’t afraid to pick up a stick and try a new sport. All the marines the Hurricanes representatives spoke with commented that they never played hockey before becoming involved on the base.
“Because of the Hurricanes impact, these guys have formed a league and host competitions between the units,” said Strand. “It’s a great rivalry and something that’s consistent in a community that is often uprooted and faces uncertainty. It’s great they can partake in the game in their own rink without worries.”
Because of the enthusiasm the Marines showed for hockey, the MCAS recreation department built a regulation-sized outdoor rink complete with team benches, dasher and scoreboards for the base after a visit from Hurricanes staff several years ago.
Not only are the Marines participating and playing regularly, but their children have the chance to use the rink and equipment as well. In fact, the sport has grown so much on the base that the recreation department is funding the re-surfacing of the rink, and the addition of an overhead enclosure. Changes to the rink also include some aesthetic appeal in tribute to the team that brought North Carolina its first professional championship.
“We want to include the Hurricanes logo on a new dasherboard, just as a way of showing how grateful we are for all the Hurricanes do,” said Jeanie Klezaras, the Marketing Director for the MCAS Community Services. “I’m sure all the Marines and the youth players here are thrilled.”
After the warm welcome, the Hurricanes staff were honored by Major Brent C. Reiffer and company with a personalized plaque for their charitable efforts. An MCAS community newspaper reporter and photographer were on hand to commemorate the event on a day that had steep competition. After the ceremony and a few first test shots with the new equipment, the promotions and fan development department was escorted to motorcycle safety day—an event designed to teach hundreds of Marines proper techniques for riding bikes.
While there are specific personnel on the base to ensure the Marines wear the proper safety attire on a motorcycle--including long pants, a reflective vest, and a helmet—the recreation department can now make sure the Marines take the same precautions while playing in the net.
A typical equipment donation for the Canes Street Stormers program would include around $1,000 worth of brand-new, officially licensed NHL Street equipment, but MCAS received twice the amount of equipment, including four full sets of goalie gear.
“These guys are so appreciative of what (the Hurricanes) are doing. They play so often that our equipment was worn out and they were down to using children’s sticks to play with,” said Klezaras.
And that’s exactly the goal of the ‘Canes Street Stormers program—to get enough people playing hockey at community centers, recreation programs, schools and military bases that an equipment donation is needed every year-- another indicator to hockey’s growth in the south.
To learn more about MCAS New River please visit http://www.newriver.usmc.mil/.
For more information on the Canes Street Stormers program, click here