WASHINGTON, DC – When a hockey amateur player fell to the ice trying to stop, Penguins center Jordan Staal came to his aide. Staal helped the young player up and gave him some encouraging words.
“You’re doing OK buddy,” Staal said. “Keep it going.”
Staal was one of five Penguins players that visited the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority youth hockey program in the country, to partake in the Hockey is for Everyone clinic for young hockey enthusiasts.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, veteran Bill Guerin, Staal, defenseman Brooks Orpik and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury took part in the clinic, which is a central component of the National Hockey League’s partnership with United We Serve, the initiative established by President Obama to challenge all Americans to engage in sustained, meaningful community service.
“It’s a great opportunity to help these kids and help the sport grow,” Crosby said. “This whole day is awesome. Kids in general, no matter where they’re from or where they’re playing, they’re out there because they love it. They’re easy to teach and they want to learn. A program like this is great for kids to learn.”
Crosby and company were on the ice with the youths for about an hour and went through various drills, giving the children tips on skating, shooting and passing, as well as fielding the occasional question from the eager kids.
So what was the best question the kids asked Crosby?
“The best question of the day is if Geno (Evgeni Malkin) and I are brothers,” he said. “They weren’t really asking too much. They were just enjoying it. There’s only so much you can teach in an hour but we gave them any tips we could. There are some kids that were pretty good and could skate pretty well. A program like this is great for the kids.”
“It was a great time,” Fleury said. “These kids are trying to learn, trying to get some tips. It’s fun just being out there. Hopefully they enjoyed it as much as we did.”
Following the clinic the five players will join the rest of their teammates, coaches and other Penguins staff for a special ceremony at the White House. As what has become an annual tradition for professional sports league champions, President Barack Obama will honor the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
“To meet the President is something I’ve never even dreamed about doing,” Crosby said. “It’s pretty neat.”
The hockey clinic was one of hundreds of service events taking place in conjunction with the September 11 Day of Service and Remembrance, which was established by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act to encourage all Americans to participate in service as a way to remember the victims and heroes of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The clinic is part of the NHL’s the Biggest Assist Happens Off the Ice campaign, in which NHL and its players continue hockey’s long tradition of addressing important social issues in North America and around the world.