With a growth of players of color in the league, the NHL has put its money where its mouth is by supporting nearly three dozen youth hockey programs across North America with heavy minority enrollment under the umbrella of its “Hockey is for Everyone” program.
The NHL took it a step further Wednesday when it announced the first recipients of a unique college scholarship program sponsored by the league and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund open to academically-eligible kids in “Hockey is for Everyone” programs.
Donnie Shaw III of Washington, D.C.’s, Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club of Ricky Lucas of Philadelphia’s Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation were introduced as the inaugural winners of the NHL/Thurgood Marshall College Fund academic scholarships Wednesday at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Congressional Hockey Caucus.
Each will receive about $6,000 a year for the four years they’re in college under the scholarship program that allows them to use the scholarships to attend the school of their choice. Money for the scholarships comes from proceeds from an annual charity hockey match that pits members of Congress and their staff against a team of registered Washington lobbyists.
Shaw, a 17-year-old senior at Washington’s Field School, is headed to Elmira College in New York where he’ll major in business management this fall. Lucas, a senior at suburban Philadelphia’s Neshaminy High School, will attend Pennsylvania State University where he’ll major in chemical or mechanical engineering.
The two were thrilled when they found out they got the scholarships.
“I definitely gave my dad a big hug just because he was the one there with me, then I went off and sat down and took it all in,” Shaw said. “It’s an honor for me to be one of the first recipients of the award, but also it speaks to Fort Dupont because Fort Dupont made me the man and hockey player that I am today.”
Lucas, 18, said “It’s truly an honor and it definitely speaks volumes about the (Snider) program.”
“I’m ecstatic. This really helps financially. Money is tight and college is expensive,” he added. “Once I graduate college I want to give back (to Snider Hockey) and help kids there.”
The Fort Dupont club, founded by Neal Henderson, is the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program. The Snider program, founded of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, is a relative new-comer by comparison but has made a huge splash with about 3,000 kids in the program.
The two are part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative that provides and supports unique programming to about 30 non-profit youth hockey organizations across North America . The programs offer boys and girls of all backgrounds the chance to play the expensive sport of hockey by providing equipment, instruction, and ice time at no or minimal cost.
In return for the free or low-cost hockey, participants in the programs must stay in school and keep their grades up in order otherwise they don’t get to practice or play. Some of the programs provide additional academic services to help kids in school.
“The “Hockey is for Everyone initiative gives young people the opportunity to be exposed to hockey, which acts as a catalyst in building character and developing life skills through the lessons learned on the ice,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last year. “Now, through our partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, we are extending our commitment by helping young men and women achieve their academic goals.”
Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund said “We’re excited to have teamed up with the NHL on this initiative and to present the first two scholarship recipients with an opportunity to pursue their college dreams.”
“Sports like hockey, coupled with a great educational foundation prepare students to become the leaders of tomorrow,” Taylor added.
Shaw believes the NHL/TMCF scholarships will help inspire and motivate kids in the hockey programs to do well on the ice and in the classroom.
“It shows the kids at Fort Dupont program now that are coming up behind me that it’s possible, that things are out there for us,” Shaw said.
Shaw and Lucas said they’re excited about facing the academic challenges of college but added that they have no intention of hanging up their skates. Both have already contacted the hockey programs at their colleges and asked about playing.
Shaw, a forward and defenseman, believes he can latch on at Elmira because it has varsity and junior varsity hockey teams. Lucas, a goaltender, said the chances of him making Penn State ’s NCAA Division I hockey team are low, but has a club hockey team that he thinks “could be stepping stone” to the D-1 team.
“I just want the opportunity,” he said.