Jack Johnson can't even imagine what his life would be like without sports.
"Not just hockey, but sports in general," he said.
That's why it's important for Johnson and the rest of his Penguins teammates to support the "Sports Matter" program created by DICK'S Sporting Goods by wearing green warmup jerseys ahead of their matchup with the Winnipeg Jets on Friday at PPG Paints Arena.
The jerseys will be available for auction for one week at pensjersey.givesmart.com, with all proceeds going to The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation to be used towards "Sports Matter," which supports and helps save youth sports around the country.
"At DICK'S we believe that sports matter and that every kid deserves a chance to play," said James Rooney, Executive Director of The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation. "We're thrilled that the Pittsburgh Penguins are celebrating our initiative today by wearing green jerseys, helping to spread the word about the importance of youth sports."
Additionally, during the first intermission on Friday, the DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation will make a $25,000 donation to the Pittsburgh I.C.E. youth hockey program. Pittsburgh I.C.E. provides youth of all socio-economic backgrounds a chance to play hockey while using the sport as a platform to encourage positive youth development, promote academics and foster life skills to enhance success both on and off the ice.
Penguins coaches will wear special green lace "Sports Matter" pins during Friday's game, and two players from the Pittsburgh I.C.E. will ride the Zamboni after the warmup.
"Since 2014, DICK'S and the DICK'S Foundation have committed over $50 million towards our 'Sports Matter' initiative," Rooney said. "And today, we're proud to provide Pittsburgh I.C.E. with a $25,000 grant to help bring this great game of hockey to youth across the city."
Billions in funding has been cut from school athletic programs in recent years, and it's estimated that more than a quarter of U.S. public high schools will not have any sports programs by 2020. That's why DICK'S Sporting Goods has made it their mission to support programs that inspire and enable participation in sports, because sports build character, increase confidence and motivate kids to stay in school and aim for higher education.
"As a dad to three boys, I think it hits home even more to me how important that I believe sports are," Matt Cullen said. "My kids play sports, No. 1, because it's fun and No. 2, you learn a lot about life and you learn a lot of important values and core values playing sports."
For more information, or to make a donation, please go to www.sportsmatter.org.