Six years before the expansion Washington Capitals
marked the arrival of professional hockey in the Washington, D.C., area, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was already introducing the sport of ice hockey to his two sons.
It was of no matter that there was only one local team his 10-year-old son John could play for, only one area hockey rink that could stage games and only one nearby store that sold the necessary equipment.
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"He would actually get us out of bed for practices at five or six in the morning," John Marshall said of his famous father. "The one thing I think that most people don't know, it's not in history books, is that he took his boys to hockey practice and supported us at a young age before hockey really picked up in this area. It's the one thing that people don't know -- he loved ice hockey and he loved watching us play."
John Marshall spoke glowingly of his hockey-dad Saturday morning as he and members of the Capitals organization helped revamp the look of Washington's Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.
The event was held as part of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) annual Beautification Day -- a city-wide effort to ready schools for the start of the academic year. This was the third straight year the Capitals have taken part.
"We're thrilled to have partners like the Capitals out here in force," Chancellor Kaya Henderson of the DCPS said. "We're doing everything we can to ensure that our kids start in buildings that are ready for them, spic-and-span and inviting and welcoming."
Among those representing the Capitals was forward Matt Hendricks
"It's great to be able to give back to the community like this and spend time volunteering with our fans," Hendricks said. "Any time we can roll up our sleeves and work like this for the benefit of kids, it's a good thing."
Hendricks was among a group of volunteers building a garden on school grounds and painting murals and classrooms. The Capitals are also donating a new smart board to the school and will be donating street hockey equipment during the year.
"When I was contacted by the Caps to do this, I thought it was just a great connection," Marshall said, "There was no way I couldn't be here. When you consider a school named after my dad, the Capitals taking part in this program, and my connection and my dad's connection to hockey in this area, it was just a great match."
"The one thing I think that most people don't know, it’s not in history books, is that he took his boys to hockey practice and supported us at a young age before hockey really picked up in this area. It's the one thing that people don’t know -- he loved ice hockey and he loved watching us play." -- John Marshall on his father, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
Marshall was part of the Washington D.C. Boys Club when he first played hockey in 1968; one year after his father became the first African-American named to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The former Secretary of Public Safety in Virginia continued to play hockey throughout his teenage years, first as a goalie, and later as a defenseman on a club team at Georgetown University.
He remains involved with the game today as a head coach with the Fort DuPont Hockey program in D.C., watching young boys develop their hockey skills just as his father once watched him.
"I think he would be very glad with how far hockey has come, in particular the equipment," John Marshall said. "He was always worried about us, especially when I started playing goalie. He used to say ‘why of all things do you have to play goalie?' But I think he'd be very pleased with how the sport has picked up.
"He'd be very pleased with [the DCPS Beautification Day] and how the Caps are doing this outreach. He always felt that famous people or celebrities or athletes should take advantage of that and give back. So he'd be very pleased with this event."