Feb 17, 2013, 12:38 PM EDT
Today is Hockey Day in America, an all-day celebration of the sport throughout the United States. NBC will air nine hours of live coverage across its networks; here at PHT, we’re taking a look at stories of hockey’s impact across the country.
Hockey can teach skills like teamwork, creativity, and perseverance, but the costs associated with playing the sport can be daunting for many families.
That’s why programs like Ice Hockey In Harlem are so important.
Ice Hockey In Harlem is a non-profit organization that accepts applications from boys and girls ranging from ages of four to 10 that live north of 110th Street in Harlem. The program includes age-specific activities through the age of 17 that are focused on developing academic skills, as well as playing hockey.
Devin Gonzalez, 16, is one of the many youths the program has helped. He’s been with the program for 16 years.
“Being on ice is like being in another world,” Gonzalez told USA Hockey. “It is the highlight of my day. I owe so much to Ice Hockey In Harlem — the opportunity to learn and play this sport was a gift.”
Gonzalez spoke not only of his passion for the sport, but also his time taking part in the book club run by the coaches.
“They not only coached on Fridays, but they also stayed around to read and discuss hockey books with us,” Gonzalez said. “We learned about the sport’s history and even a fancy vocabulary.”
Rob Schoenbach, a public school science teacher who also serves as a volunteer coach, emphasized that the IHIH is about more than just playing hockey.
“We’re trying to also create a bigger scope for the kids themselves,” Schoenbach told NHL.com. “They get to socialize and have the experience of being on a team, and the team isn’t just at the rink or in the locker room — we’re creating a community.”
There are over 1,000 stories like Gonzalez’s thanks to Ice Hockey In Harlem, according to the Rangers’ website. Many, like Gonzalez, might not have gotten an opportunity to play hockey at all if not for this program.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
The founder of the program, Dave Wilk wrote that “Ice Hockey in Harlem was an oxymoron when we began.”
He first had the idea while studying at the University of Pennsylvania and was given the essay question, “What if you had a year off and nothing to do?”
“One part of my response was that I’d start a program for hockey in an inner-city environment,” Wilk remembered. In 1987, he made that a reality with the help of Upward Fund.
“So I went into Harlem in September of 1987 and I met with some kids who were playing street hockey with Upward Fund,” Wilk said. “They were interested in playing on ice as well. That’s how I started to recruit the first group of kids. I scrounged equipment from CCM, and we got this program off the ground.”
They started with 25 kids and have ballooned to the point where they open its doors to up to 225 students, so as Gonzalez begins to outgrow the programs, many new youths will get the same opportunity he has.
“I am so thankful for it and only hope that the organization continues to service boys and girls in Harlem and throughout,” Gonzalez said.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
But are any teams mulling his return?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
Where he’ll work as a community liaison.
Jul 27, 2015, 7:22 PM EDT
“I want to go free.”
Jul 27, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
24-year-old forward would require waivers to be sent down…
Jul 27, 2015, 5:22 PM EDT
“I’ll have to start thinking about it more and more in the next couple of weeks.”
Jul 27, 2015, 4:28 PM EDT
Hence the six-year, $39 million contract.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:26 PM EDT
Looking to become a full-time NHLer after suffering a series of injuries at the start his pro career.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
The alignment debate rages on.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT
Russ Brandon takes over.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
Click to see the full list.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT
Click to see who’s still left.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT
Hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:19 AM EDT
No arbitrator required.
Jul 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
He calls it the six-year, $25 million contract “good for both sides.”
Jul 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Jul 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EDT
The only certainty is short-term.
Jul 26, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT
Playing between Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon would excite plenty of people.
Jul 26, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
Holdovers are noticing a summer of improvements for Buffalo.
Jul 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
The two sides avoided arbitration on Sunday.
Jul 26, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Columbus hasn’t had a long history of being a “cap team.”
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- Deal with the Devils: New Jersey re-signs Larsson to six-year contract 14
- Stepan seeks $7.25M in arbitration, Rangers counter at $5.2M 24
- Capitals investment: Holtby signs five-year, $30.5M deal 21
- Redemption time? Montreal, Semin agree to one-year deal 26
- Full autonomy: Lamoriello’s place in Leafs’ chain of command 26
- Lamoriello’s departure removes any doubt: Devils are Shero’s team 21
- With Lamoriello hire, Leafs hammer home their culture change 23
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- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million (59)