As Washington Capitals mascot Slapshot prepared to drop the puck to kick off the championship game of the eighth annual Baltimore Street Hockey Tournament, more than 120 kids from eight recreation centers pounded the ground with their sticks to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and filled the Madison Square Recreation Center with a chorus of sound.
Prior to the electric atmosphere of this thrilling final, The Washington Capitals, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Baltimore City Public Schools and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks announced a partnership that added an ounce of excitement.
Starting with the 2018 to 19 school year, the Capitals will provide each elementary, middle and high school physical education teacher in the city with hockey skills training. The Capitals also will provide all city schools, as well as 42 recreation centers in the city, with a full set of branded street hockey equipment.
The partnership will introduce the sport to more than 75,000 students in more than 150 schools through a multi-week street hockey curriculum during the year.
Peter Robinson, director of community relations for the Washington Capitals, says the partnership is the next logical step in introducing local kids to the sport of hockey.
“The whole point of this program is to provide access to the sport of hockey to kids who may not have access,” Robinson says. “And a lot of kids everywhere that live in the inner cities, suburbs, rural areas, they look at hockey and they think, ‘I can’t play that, I don’t have an ice rink near me.’ But they can.”
But, Robinson stresses, the partnership isn’t just a toothless donation with little follow through. The Capitals intend to help out teachers and administrators every step of the way.
“We want to make sure that the program succeeds and the kids are actually having fun and interacting with the equipment that we donate,” Robinson says. “That’s why we come in and work with the teachers, we work with the administration to have professional training days where we can introduce and teach those teachers all about the sport of hockey.”
In addition to this new partnership, the summer street hockey tournament will continue. The annual tournament is vital to community development, as it enables children from all over the city to come together and interact in a positive way, rec leaders say.
“[The program] enables rec centers from different communities to come together, and hockey’s bringing the neighborhoods together for some competition,” says Bob Wall, chief of recreation for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. “And maybe meet new friends and establish new relationships.”
As the horn sounded and the clock struck zero, the team from Carroll F. Cook was the last team standing after their 6-1 victory over Mt. Royal. It was Cook’s sixth straight street hockey title. But this one was a little different, because the Capitals had one last surprise up their sleeve. A replica Stanley Cup was unveiled, and the Carroll F. Cook players hoisted the trophy above their heads just as Capitals players had a few months ago.