Capitals bring hockey to city kids in NHL Street program

League-wide program brings street hockey to kids in urban areas

June 09, 2010|By Colin Stevens, The Baltimore Sun

After patiently sitting along a back wall for nearly a half hour, 10-year-old Kaenetra Everett could finally test the new hockey equipment sitting neatly in the corner of the gymnasium.

"This is the first time they've brought hockey to this community so that we can play," Everett said after practicing faceoffs, shooting and passing with her friends. "For practice, I think I did good."

The equipment arrived at Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center in West Baltimore's Upton neighborhood Wednesday as part of NHL Street, a league-wide program which brings street hockey to children ages 6-16 in cities where ice rinks may not be available.

Established in 1994, NHL Street has created programs in more than 50 markets across North America, but is making its first appearance in Baltimore City. Because Baltimore has no pro hockey team to call its own, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young sees the initiative as a way for kids to learn about a sport they may not have seen.

"It opens up a whole new avenue for our youth in Baltimore City who otherwise wouldn't know what hockey is or experience hockey," Young said. "The closest thing that we have to hockey in Baltimore City is the Washington Capitals, so this will open up a whole new opportunity for them and it will also give them another physical education type of sport where they can exercise and be competitive."

During the ceremony, Young was presented a Capitals sweater by former Caps players Ken Sabourin and Sylvain Cote. Sabourin, who played for the Capitals from 1990 to 1992, sees NHL Street as an easy way for kids to get away from video games and stay active.

"There's too many things [kids] sit around and do with their thumbs," Sabourin said. "Centers like this supply the equipment. Now thanks to the NHL and the Capitals, they can come out here and have fun. Even go outside. You can play anywhere. That's the great thing about the sport is you don't need an ice rink. You can play anywhere. As long as you have a stick and a ball, away you go."

Kenneth Pindell, 11, was excited when he heard he was going to play hockey, a new experience he found enjoyable.

"I like the sport and it's cool," he said.

The arrival of NHL Street to Baltimore comes at the same time that the City Council's Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee is set to pass a package of revenue-generating proposals that will prevent service cuts and layoffs for the city's Recreation and Rark services.

Young said the passing of these packages, which should occur Thursday, is important for the suppression of crime within the city.

"Recreation and Parks is part of our crime-fighting strategy. We have to keep our kids engaged in positive programs," he said. "We pay now or we pay later."

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