Richard Payne and Pittsburgh I.C.E. Helping Kids Learn to Play Hockey

Pittsburgh I.C.E. (Inclusion Creates Equality) and Richard Payne are doing all they can to give kids the opportunity to play hockey who otherwise would never be able to. Payne, along with the NHLPA and their Learn to Play program, has helped introduce thousands of kids in the greater Pittsburgh area to the game of hockey.

Making Things Right

The mission of Pittsburgh I.C.E. is to provide equipment and ice time to kids in local communities who aren’t traditionally exposed to hockey. One of their rock star volunteers is Mr. Payne. Michele Humphreys, Executive Director of Pittsburgh I.C.E., couldn’t say enough good things about Payne during our interview. Ms. Humphreys, who’s a hockey mom herself, said, “Richard’s just an unbelievable volunteer. Every week he drives to pick up kids in a bus just so these kids have a chance to play hockey.” Payne says, “I get a rush from getting up in the morning, getting them [the kids] here. Forty-nine years old, and I’m still the biggest kid ready to go to the rink.”

Pittsburgh Ice
Richard Payne and Pittsburgh I.C.E.Golf Outing (Photo courtesy of Michele Humphreys)

Jim Britt, VP Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, said, “Richard does all that he’s asked and then some. He recruits kids, helps them tie their skates, helps with on-ice instruction.” Payne, who’s the Director of Community Resources at Pittsburgh I.C.E., says, “When I grew up, I was the only kid playing hockey. I got some rollerblades, and I’m rolling up and down the street.” However, he was the only one who wanted to play. This, of course, didn’t sit well with Payne. So, as an adult, he found a place with Pittsburgh I.C.E. where he can help bring hockey to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play. Payne says, “I didn’t have access to ice, but I love hockey. I want kids of all backgrounds to enjoy the game.”

Pittsburgh I.C.E. Staff & More

The Pittsburgh I.C.E. coaching staff consists of Payne and nine others, headed by Allan Walsh. Payne also serves on the board of directors with five others, while Ms. Humphreys has her Executive Director duties. Anyone who qualifies can get involved with the program as a player, volunteer, or coach. The foundation just had its annual Rinks to Links golf outing on June 28 at St. Clair Country Club. Proceeds from the event also go to support diversity and inclusion in hockey for underserved athletes. You can support the program financially here, and some corporations and employers may even match your funds.

Discover, NHL, NHLPA Learn to Play

Discover Card partnered with the NHL and the NHLPA’s Learn to Play Program to make hockey more accessible to communities across the US. That’s where Payne comes in. Discover chose Pittsburgh I.C.E. and its Learn to Play Program as the recipient of a season’s worth of ice time. Discover was inspired by Payne’s impact and commitment to his community. Payne said, “Because ice time is expensive and Discover getting behind this; it gives an opportunity for kids of all socio-economical backgrounds to be on the ice.”

Pittsburgh Ice
May 7, 2021 – Pittsburgh Ice practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. (Photo courtesy of Michele Humphreys)

To celebrate the announcement, Discover surprised the kids of Pittsburgh I.C.E. with the Stanley Cup. The group was able to have their picture taken and be right up close with the Cup. Britt said, “Richard has introduced thousands of kids to the game of hockey. It’s hard not to get excited about hockey when you’re talking to Richard.” Payne says part of his inspiration is that when he was a kid, he didn’t have people cheering him on, so the fact that he can cheer the kids on means a lot to him. The Penguins recently announced they’re launching a hockey diversity program at Hunt Armory. They’re building a seasonal ice rink to provide a publicly accessible rink to support equitable and inclusive hockey programming for Pittsburgh youth.

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