Hockey is for everyone. Really, it’s Hockey is For Everyone™ month. February features one day devoted to love – and possibly invented by Hallmark – while the hockey community associates every day in February with love for the sport. The 28-day festival invites members of the LGBTQ community, of low socioeconomic backgrounds, of ethnic minorities and those suffering from physical and mental disabilities to activities provided by and in partnership with NHL franchises. The Washington Capitals opened their Hockey is For Everyone™ schedule by laughing and playing with children visiting from Asia.
Twenty-three lucky children sat on the bench grinning so much that they could light the scoreboard at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They were watching the Capitals practice. As the morning session ended with a friendly scrimmage between mites and Caps, the Chinese youth took in every moment of the 10-day adventure. These children – hailing from the Beijing Primary School – were learning from alumni and coaches, exploring cultural landmarks, and watching a motor show, basketball game and hockey game at Verizon Center.
The Capitals held Chinese Cultural Night on Feb. 1, where fans were greeted with string instrument performers. Every year, Washington organizes programs and themed nights in partnership with other D.C.-based organizations.
For the Veterans
Now until Mar. 3, high schools compete in the Capitals Cup High School Championships. Similar to other franchises, Washington follows local hockey to engage with its fans and support the community. The “Capitals Cup” is a designation given to the champions of the four Maryland high school hockey leagues. Champions also receive championship hats and medals and will be honored on the High School Wall of Fame displayed at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
On Feb. 4, while the Capitals visited the Montreal Canadiens , Capitals alumnus Clint Malarchuk was at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex skating with the USA Warriors, a program that allows wounded veterans to participate in ice hockey. Members of the USA Warriors enjoyed playing with Malarchuk. Malarchuk suited up in 96 games, posting his NHL career-best 3.16 GAA with the Capitals in the 1987-88 campaign.
— USA Warriors Hockey (@USAWarriors) February 4, 2017
United Arab Emirates Hockey
Fatima Al Ali, whose stickhandling skills impressed Washington alumnus Peter Bondra, will drop the puck for the center ice ceremony on Feb. 9. Al Ali and Bondra crossed paths when the latter led a clinic at the Pavilkovsky Hockey School in Abu Dhabi in November. Al Ali was shocked to find out Bondra and the Capitals were bringing her to the States for a Capitals game. Etihad Airways surprised Al Ali – who hates surprises – by conference-calling Bondra into a meeting to deliver the big news. She will watch the team practice and display her moves afterward on Feb. 8.
Washington will meet children suffering from physical and developmental disabilities at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex two days later. Players will skate alongside more than 100 children at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Feb. 10. The children’s charity Dreams for Kids will partner with the Capitals for the seventh consecutive year to bring joy to children from various parts of D.C. Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation affiliate Leveling the Playing Field will supply equipment to participants. Leveling the Playing Field has been donating used and excess equipment to youth sports organizations since 2012.
Washington’s next initiative includes two lucky, local referees who will be delivered tickets and a chance to meet the players. No word as to who the referees are yet. This meet and greet is part of USA Hockey’s ‘Meet and Shadow the NHL Officials’ program.
Everyone should play hockey, all the time, always #CapsHIFE
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 6, 2017
The Capitals will take part in USA Hockey’s Hockey Week Across America campaign from Feb. 19-26. This includes “Try Hockey for Free Day” on Feb. 25. Local venues will introduce children between the ages of four and nine to youth hockey. Two other days are “Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey Day” and “Celebrate Local Hockey Hero’s Day.”
Amid Hockey Week Across America, the Capitals and D.C. Public Schools will deliver a screening of “Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future” to DCPS middle school students. “Soul on Ice” recounts contributions black athletes in hockey have made to the game. Capitals alumnus Reggie Savage will answer questions alongside filmmaker Kwame Mason following the movie. Savage was the second black player to be drafted in the first round.
Washington’s finale will be Hockey is For Everyone™ night on Feb. 24 when the Capitals face the Edmonton Oilers. Washington Ice Dogs – a member of Special Hockey Washington – player Sam Smith will shake hands with Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin at center ice for the ceremonial puck drop. Youth hockey programs across D.C. area will participate in the night’s events.
Fan Club Fun
Scarlet Caps, Washington’s all-women fan club, will lead a ‘Learn to Skate’ clinic on Feb. 28 for select members. A forthcoming viewing party will take place at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to watch the Capitals take on the New York Rangers. In addition, local and national female hockey executives and former collegiate and professional players will discuss women in hockey.
The Washington Capitals kicked off Hockey is For Everyone™ month by hosting 23 children from Beijing, China. By the end, the Capitals will have fostered relationships with more than 11 organizations and affected countless lives of children, adults and veterans. In giving back to the community, Washington is truly making hockey for everyone.
Growing women's hockey in D.C., one Hockey 'n Heels at a time
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 6, 2017
Michael Mazzuca graduated from The University of Scranton with a degree in journalism and electronic media. Mike began writing for The Hockey Writers in December 2016. He has written for the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as well as the Rockland Boulders independent baseball team. Follow him on Twitter at @MazzucaMike.