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Hockey Is For Everyone

Color of Hockey: Fort Dupont program continues to create opportunities

Ware learns game in Washington, D.C., chases NHL dream with Minnesota family adventure

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles Zachary Ware, whose family is relocating with him as he follows his NHL dream.


Zachary Ware figured hockey would take him places when he began playing for Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in Washington, D.C. But his parents never imagined that they would be going with him.

The 16-year-old is getting settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he's preparing to play hockey this fall at Gentry Academy, a private school with a hockey program that is establishing itself as elite.

His mother, Donna, is finally in a St. Paul apartment after weeks of moving from one Airbnb rental to another in the city. Her husband, Keith, is in Washington, where he sold the house and is trying to figure the geometry of stuffing the family belongs in a rental truck for the 1,000-mile drive to Minnesota.

All so their son can chase his dream.

"It was important for us to help Zachary follow his dream of playing in the NHL, so we decided to come," Donna Ware said. "Did we imagine we'd be here when he started at Fort Dupont? No, I didn't know it was going in this direction."

The sacrifice isn't lost on Zachary, who is thankful that his parents are making the move to fulfill residency requirements to allow him to play varsity hockey in Minnesota.

"I am 100 percent appreciative of them," he said. "I don't know how many parents in the world would just pack up and leave."

Zachary got the hockey bug when was 8 and joined the Fort Dupont hockey program, which is part of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative that is designed to expose boys and girls from all backgrounds to the game and use it as a tool to encourage them to stay in school and become solid citizens.

"That program just gave me a bunch of opportunities," Zachary said. "I was able to play hockey in Israel for a week or so, I got to meet (Hockey Hall of Fame member) Willie O'Ree, I got to meet (Washington Capitals forward) Alex Ovechkin. From a training perspective, Fort Dupont emphasized strength and speed. Those are the two things that probably help me out most today."

The main thrust of Hockey Is For Everyone has been to build good people, not necessarily good hockey players. But it seems to be doing both.

Hockey Is For Everyone -- and its precursor, the NHL Diversity initiative -- has produced players who've landed on junior teams, NCAA rosters, college and university club hockey teams and even in the NHL, for a few minutes.

Ayodele Adeniye, an alumnus of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, is a defenseman for Carleton Place, a Junior A team in the Central Canada Hockey League and has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville's NCAA Division I hockey team.

Cameron Burt, who began playing youth hockey with the Detroit Ice Hockey Association and earned a hockey scholarship at the Rochester Institute of Technology (2008-09 to 2011-12), played professionally in Slovakia last season.

Tarasai Karega, another Detroit Ice Hockey Association product, was a standout at Amherst College, with 112 points (61 goals, 51 assists) in 110 games between 2005-06 and 2008-09. 

Karega helped lead Amherst to an NCAA Division III women's title in 2009 and became the first black woman to play on an NCAA championship hockey team. Today, she's a member of the NHL and NHL Players' Association's Female Hockey Advisory Committee.

Duante Abercrombie got his hockey start at Fort Dupont. After briefly playing minor league hockey in the United States and New Zealand, he was named coach of the Washington Little Capitals 16U National Team in 2018.

Former goalie Gerald Coleman was one of NHL Diversity's initial players and was later selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round (No. 224) of 2003 NHL Draft.

Coleman played 44 minutes over two games for the Lightning in 2005-06 and helped Alaska win the ECHL's Kelly Cup before he retired in 2014. 

Zachary wants to be the next one. To accomplish that, he felt he had to move.

"D.C. doesn't have as many tools and resources to train people as Minnesota," said Zachary, who had 24 points (16 goals, eight assists) in 24 games with DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland last season. "To be the best, that's one of my biggest motivations. There are only a few black players in the NHL, and I want to expand the group."

Zachary's coaches at Fort Dupont, DeMatha and other Washington-area hockey programs say he has the talent and temperament to advance in the game.

Video: The goals of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club

"This kid is passionate about hockey," said Willy Meaux, who coached him in the Washington-area Titans Youth Hockey program. "You see how much work he puts into it. You, as a coach, will make an extra effort watching a kid like him because you want to be a better coach to help him get better. That's the kind of kid this is."

Meaux said Zachary's parents are equally special for readily pulling up stakes and heading to Minnesota, which has had its challenges.

Keith Ware is looking for a work while in the throes of moving. His wife recently landed a job as a teaching assistant in St. Paul.

The Wares love what they've seen of Minnesota in summer -- "It kind of reminds me of Myrtle Beach," Zachary said -- but are bracing themselves for winter in St. Paul.

"We're looking at this as a family adventure," Keith said. "We made the commitment. My wife and I said, 'Let's support him in his hockey. Wherever it takes him, it takes him.'"

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