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Color of Hockey

Color of Hockey: Programs helping their players deal with coronavirus

Communications key while schools, rinks are closed during pandemic

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past eight years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March 2019 and writes about people of color in the game. Today, he examines how Hockey Is For Everyone programs are helping their players as rinks and schools are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation president and CEO Scott Tharp said his organization almost always has a Plan B should things go awry.

But with rinks and schools in the Philadelphia area, as well as around the world, closing due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, "Now we have a Plan A, B, C and D for what we're doing" to keep homebound Snider Hockey kids academically and athletically engaged, Tharp said.

"We anticipated the rinks would be shut down, probably the first week in March," he said, "so we started putting some plans in place in the event that would happen."

Rinks and classrooms may be shuttered for the pandemic, but the work of Snider Hockey and other programs in the Hockey Is For Everyone initiative goes on.

Hockey Is For Everyone, with 26 nonprofit programs, uses the game to foster inclusiveness and encourage boys and girls of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status to be good citizens and thrive in school. Like the rest of the world, these programs are having to adapt how they do business in the age of the coronavirus. With staffs and volunteers working from their homes, they're reaching out by phone or computer to their young players, many of whom come from underserved communities or families with limited resources.

Programs that haven't put coronavirus plans in action are rapidly working on them with the notion that it could be a while before rinks and schools reopen.

Snider Hockey has contacted more than 1,600 families who have children enrolled in its After School Excellence program and listed the resources available to program participants on its website. Life skills personnel, academic aides and others have been assigned students to contact to make sure they're all right, help them with their studies or just talk.

"We see it as a crucial part of our mentoring service," Tharp said. "If we can't see them personally two or three times a week, we have to figure out a way to continue to make contact to let them know that we're here all year, still here for them."

Snider Hockey, created by the late Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider in 2005, began Reading Buddies sessions for families using video conferencing last week. One-on-one support is being provided for Breakaway Scholars and Goals & Assists students who have been awarded scholarships to attend selected Philadelphia-area colleges and universities, as well as Catholic high schools.

To keep participants hockey sharp, Snider Hockey coaches are conducting online workouts and skill sessions for travel teams on Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Former NHL forward Scott Hartnell worked up a sweat this past Thursday recording a video to show Snider Hockey players what exercises they can do at home without gym equipment.

"I was trying to think what I should do, and I'm like, 'I haven't worked out in a couple of years since I've been retired,'" said Hartnell, who spent much of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers before retiring after the 2017-18 season and is now an NHL Network analyst. "Right now, the whole world is on pause, but it doesn't mean you can't be active and still do great things in the world, and that's hugely important."

Adelia Chism, a goalie on Snider Hockey's Under-12 girls team, said it has been tough being at home. But she's thrilled that she received an at-home training regimen from her coach and that she's been able to stay in contact with her teammates.

"I'm learning how to juggle for hand-eye coordination, and the fact that I get to talk to my teammates every Monday is also very exciting," she said. "Even though I can't play hockey, I still get to have some experiences with it. It's not just being at home with no hockey."

The Columbus Ice Hockey Club in Ohio is trying its best to keep its players physically and academically motivated.

After-School All-Stars Ohio, a nonprofit program that works with CIHC, has created what it calls "a virtual learning opportunity" on its Facebook page with reading, science, and health and fitness activities.

John Haferman, CIHC's executive director, and team coaches are making at-home exercise videos "because the kids will recognize their faces and, hopefully, really want to engage with them as kind of like special guest stars on our virtual learning as we are adapting to all of this," said Allison Ansari, development manager for After-School All-Stars Ohio.

In Northern California, players and coaches for the Oakland Bears are also in touch online. The Bears are part of the Sharks Ice Hockey Is For Everyone program at the Oakland Ice Center Operated by Sharks Ice.

"So far, I've been able to keep up with most of our kids/teams. Some of our kids have replied back with videos of them doing things to stay active, albeit from our younger kids," said Chi-Yin Tse, Oakland Ice Center's hockey manager. "I am putting something together for our older kids that will incorporate journaling and how they are feeling during this period, and then send over some hockey videos for our older kids to digest in groups. Basically, I'm trying to keep them mentally and physically challenged. I don't want them to fall into a routine of having no routine."

The Clark Park Coalition hockey program is weighing how it can use NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association educational resources to help its players; the southwest Detroit rink and community center, where after-school activities normally took place, are closed.

Anthony Benavides, the center director, said his organization is exploring using Hockey Scholar, an online hockey-themed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum for elementary and middle school-aged students that the NHL and NHLPA is providing free access to help the millions of children whose school have closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, powered by EverFi and part of the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals initiative, uses hockey to teach STEM and was previously available only through educational institutions and teachers.

"We're going to look into that," said Benavides, a 2019 finalist for the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award. "The only problem is a lack of internet here. A lot of parents can't afford it, so they do without. Hopefully, there will be some monies coming down this way where kids can get internet and laptops for their schoolwork to get their homework on."

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