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Future Goals program uses hockey as teaching tool

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- As Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban made the rounds from student to student at Newark Science Park High School on Tuesday, he started thinking about how big of an impact education has had on his life and his family.

"My family has a very big educational background," Subban said. "My dad worked in the Toronto District School Board for over 30 years as a principal. My sisters are both teachers. My sister's husband is a teacher. Working with kids and the school board has been something my family has been doing for a long time."

Now Subban will get his chance to do the same through the Future Goals Digital Education Program, a joint initiative between the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association.

Future Goals was introduced during an hour-long program Tuesday at Science Park High School, located approximately one mile from Prudential Center, the home of the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL and NHLPA have partnered with EverFi to create a digital learning program that uses hockey as a vehicle to foster further education in digital social responsibilities.

The NHL and NHLPA have partnered with EverFi
to create a digital learning program that uses
hockey as a vehicle to foster further education
in digital social responsibilities.
(Click to enlarge)
Courtesy: Andy Marlin/NHLI

The NHL and NHLPA have partnered with Washington D.C.-based EverFi to create a digital learning program that uses hockey as a vehicle to foster further education in digital social responsibilities and to allow students to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Future Goals will be available in K-12 schools across all 30 NHL markets along with hundreds of additional communities. It is geared toward students of middle school age (grades 6-8), but it has the ability to expand in both directions.

Select students at Science Park High School presented the program to several executives from the NHL and NHLPA as well as nine NHL players and two players from the United States women's Olympic hockey team Tuesday.

Also in attendance were NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, Subban, Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad, New York Islanders captain John Tavares, Buffalo Sabres forward Brian Gionta, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, Devils defenseman Andy Greene, and Julie Chu and Meghan Duggan from the U.S. women's national team.

"Most importantly it's for the good of the students in all of our markets, engaging in our communities, which is something our clubs historically have done a great job of doing," Daly said. "Under our new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] we've set aside some money for the League to assist in those efforts and this is kind of the kickoff program, which is an in-school program and trying to mix education with the great sport of hockey. We're off to a great start."

The digital program is divided into two phases.

The first phase, which the students were working on Tuesday, tackles social responsibilities, such as teaching about cyber-bullying and the proper ways to interact on social media while maintaining privacy.

"I have talked to some kids about the spyware stuff, all the technology," Simmonds said. "I told them I couldn't even use my cell phone properly. These kids are way ahead of where I am right now, that's for sure."

EverFi co-founder and chief strategy officer Jon Chapman said learning about social responsibilities is an important part of the program because of the difficulties students can face in the changing digital world.

"It's not just learning numbers and facts; it's learning life lessons, understanding how this world works," Subban said. "The more we can educate kids on that, the more prepared they're going to be for university and college when they get there. It starts somewhere, and I'm a firm believer that if you're going to inflict change in this world it starts with the kids. This program is a great start to that."

The second phase allows the students to use hockey as a tool for learning about STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

For example, if the students are working on thermodynamics, the program will help them understand how an ice surface is created in an arena and an outdoor stadium. If they're learning about geometry, a teaching tool will involve the angles between the boards and the ice, or the direction a player takes to the puck from the blue line to the corner. They will learn about velocity through the speed a player skates or how fast someone shoots.

"It's a real supplement, something that augments their classroom experience, and for teachers it's another tool in their toolbox to teach concepts," Chapman said. "So when they want to go learn about thermodynamics in a science section of sixth grade, they can utilize the platform that the NHL and NHLPA has brought to them in Future Goals to bring those concepts to life in a really unique way."

Daly said the program has made him consider the educational tools hockey can deliver because of the uniqueness of the sport.

"I never really thought of hockey in those terms, but when you step back and look at it and understand it a little bit more, science and technology is really throughout our game and plays a role in really every facet of it, particularly with the new rage of analytics," Daly said. "Understanding how players perform and how they perform optimally, all of that has a lot to do with science. It's an interesting time, there's no doubt."

Daly also said that an understated goal within the program is to show students that they can work in the sports industry even if they are not professional athletes.

"I always saw hockey as a great channel to learn life lessons," Subban said. "Playing hockey since I was two-and-a-half years old, I have learned so much about life and people, developing social skills, understanding life skills. I think that this program is doing that. To know you can do it in the classroom is something special."

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