DETROIT – Easton Shaw had been waiting for this moment for an entire year.
The 10-year-old dreamed of playing hockey at Detroit’s Clark Park Coalition Recreation Center, and because of a brand new initiative between the NHL and Detroit Red Wings Foundation to renovate the facility, she’ll be able to skate as often as her heart desires.
“It means that she gets to play,” Easton’s mom Sarah Shaw said of the renovations. “Hockey’s really just in her heart, it’s all she’s ever wanted to do. She’s waited a whole year to be able to come to Clark Park and play. She has trained herself every day outside in the summertime in full hockey gear and roller blades to get ready to come to play here this year so we’re very excited.”
The NHL and Red Wings Foundation, with additional support from DTE Energy, Johnson Controls, and York, funded and spearheaded the donation of resources and materials to Clark Park’s outdoor rink. The effort is part of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Legacy Initiative, an ongoing philanthropic endeavor in which the NHL, the local NHL team and NHL partners support a community organization in the host city as a legacy of an NHL event.
The enhancements to Clark Park include the donation of a Zamboni ice resurfacing machine to replace the facility’s aging 35-year-old machine; lighting upgrades at the rink and parking lot for improved energy efficiency; an upgraded rink refrigeration system; snow removal equipment for its ice hockey and skating programs; a new ice surface and rink boards; new bicycle racks provided by Disenos Ornamental Iron; and sustainability facelifts to its recycling program provided by CleanRiver and NHL Green.
"The Red Wings Foundation is thrilled to be a part of a meaningful initiative like this that gives youth in our community a great place to play hockey, stay healthy and active, and build values like teamwork, respect and integrity," said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and chairman of Ilitch Charities, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. "It's particularly special to us because Clark Park is just a couple of miles from the Wings' home ice and our players and coaching staff enjoy visiting and engaging with youth hockey players here."
Coach Mike Babcock, defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser and goalie Jimmy Howard were on hand for the announcement, and were thrilled to be part of the effort to give back to the local community and encourage Detroit youth to participate in the game of hockey.
“I think it’s great for the community,” Howard said. “The community does such a great job with supporting us that I think it’s great that us and the Red Wings Foundation are giving back.”
DeKeyser added: “I’ve played around here my whole life and been here so I kind of know what some of the people here have been through. It gives the kids a great spot to come on the weekends or after school and hang out and play some hockey and hopefully grow up into something bigger than that.”
Kronwall and DeKeyser also took part in a clinic with a group of Clark Park youth skaters put on by USA Hockey after the announcement, which put priceless smiles on all of the children’s faces.
“It was a great experience, it was very fun,” Easton said. “I never thought that I’d get to do something like this. I enjoy practicing with the kids. I’m glad that they got a Zamboni and I hope we can come back and play again.”
With the new equipment and renovations donated by the NHL and Red Wings Foundation, Easton, her friends and all of the young hockey players following in their footsteps will have years and years full of opportunities to play their favorite sport in their neighborhood.
“These donations build upon a decade of meaningful partnership and investment by the NHL and Detroit Red Wings into the lives of youth in Southwest Detroit,” said Steve Tobocman, Clark Park Coalition president. “This current investment really paves the way to ensure that hockey can continue to be a critical component of our efforts to reach and develop kids living in poverty in this diverse Detroit community for years to come.”