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Hockey is for Everyone: Herb Brooks Foundation Rink Rats

Program to be one of seven groups honored at Thursday's Wild game

by Minnesota Wild @mnwild / Wild.com

Hockey is for Everyone uses the game of hockey to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities. During the month of February, the Wild will celebrate organizations and teams around Minnesota that work to create a greater State of Hockey and exemplify the meaning of Hockey is for Everyone -- providing a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

Herb Brooks is, perhaps, best known for coaching the underdog United States men's team to victory in the 1980 Winter Olympics, including the iconic Miracle on Ice game against the Soviets. That success came from his willingness to adapt the Americans' game to European trends, allowing them to skate better and faster with the puck.

That approach altered the state of North American hockey, and carried over decades later, is influencing a new generation of hockey players with the Herb Brooks Foundation's Rink Rats.

The Herb Brooks Foundation was created after the legendary coach's 2004 death to promote his approach of back-to-basics hockey and desire to grow the game. The Rink Rats program not only allows inner-city children to learn to skate and play hockey but also to gain life lessons from the sport and mentors. 

Area universities' hockey teams, including Hamline University and Augsburg University, skate with the Rink Rats and help them develop both hockey skills and life skills. 

During the 2017-18 winter, Rink Rats programs have grown to 12 Minneapolis schools and 3 St. Paul indoor arenas, including TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center. 

By allowing kids who may not normally be exposed to the sport to learn to play, the Rink Rats program is in line with Brooks' core values and the values his foundation seeks to carry on. By improving the game, improving the players and increasing opportunities to play, the goal is to help Rink Rats players grow personally and athletically and be well-equipped for the rest of their lives.

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