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Gritty touts Future Goals program during Hockey Day on the Hill

Flyers mascot rubs elbows with politicians, demonstrates hockey-themed STEM education course

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Gritty went to the nation's capital for Hockey Day on the Hill to help spread the word about the NHL and NHL Players' Association's Future Goals program, but while he was there he rubbed elbows with politicians and almost found love.

Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania's 2nd Congressional District, is an avid Philadelphia Flyers fan and considered putting Gritty to work when the Flyers mascot was at Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday for a floor hockey clinic and a demonstration of Future Goals, which uses hockey to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

"This is a tough time on Capitol Hill in terms of reaching agreements between Democrats and Republicans," Boyle said. "I would invite Gritty to actually broker some negotiations between both parties."

Boyle believes Gritty would work well with representatives from each side of the political aisle.

"He has very special communication skills." Boyle said.

Gritty later faced shots from Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois' 5th Congressional District, and pulled Quigley's Chicago Blackhawks jersey over his head when they posed for a photo together. Quigley quickly reminded Gritty that the Blackhawks defeated the Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Meeting Gritty turned out to be the perfect birthday present for Boyle, who turned 42 on Wednesday.

"I'm always excited when constituents come down to Washington and visit me, but when I heard Gritty was here I knew I had to carve out some time in my schedule to have a one-on-one meeting with the best mascot in the NHL," Boyle said. "It's amazing how much national attention he's captured. Initially, people were kind of taken off guard by the fact that there was a new mascot, but then the people of Philadelphia just really flocked to support him."

Lauren Smith, a policy counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum who grew up Philadelphia and now lives in Washington, is one of those enthralled with Gritty's charm. The 34-year-old came to Rayburn House dressed in the Gritty costume she made for Halloween, and it appeared to be love at first sight when they met.

Gritty immediately hugged and kissed Smith, then introduced her to N.J. Devil, the New Jersey Devils mascot, and Slap Shot, the Washington Capitals mascot, who also assisted with the Future Goals demonstration and floor hockey clinic.

"When I found out there was an opportunity to meet him, I could not miss out," Smith said of Gritty. "I didn't realize it would go over so well."

It appeared Gritty and Smith were heading off to begin their new life together when they left Rayburn House's foyer arm-in-arm. Sadly, Gritty pushed Smith away when they got halfway down the hall and he returned to the foyer alone.

"He introduced me to all his friends and then he walked away," Smith said. "But I'm a big Gritty fan, and it's been exciting to see fans across the country embrace Gritty."

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