When most folks think of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, they probably envision a robed, bespectacled judge presiding from the bench, not someone sitting bundled up in the bleachers of a frigid ice rink.
But Marshall, the nation’s first African-American Supreme Court justice, was a Hockey Dad and a Washington Capitals fan, to boot. And like millions of hockey parents around the globe, he hauled his two sons to practice and games, often at the crack of dawn.
“The one thing I think that most people don’t know, it’s not in history books, is that he took his boys to hockey practice and supported us at a young age….,” son John Marshall told blogger Scott Smith. “He loved ice hockey and he loved watching us play.”
The late justice’s love of hockey and his dedication to helping those who have less converge Wednesday as the National Hockey League and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund announce the first recipients of a unique scholarship effort established by the league and the college fund last year for academically-eligible kids who participate in NHL-sanctioned “Hockey is For Everyone” programs across the country.
Donnie Shaw III of Washington, D.C.’s, Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club of Ricky Lucas of Philadelphia’s Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation will be 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.
Both will receive about $6,000 a year for the four years they’re in college under the scholarship program. Funding for the scholarships comes from monies raised 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, said he’ll use the money to attend Elmira College in New York where he’ll major in business management this fall. Lucas, a senior at suburban Philadelphia’s Neshaminy High School, is heading to Pennsylvania State University where he’ll major in chemical or mechanical engineering.
Both boys said they were over the moon when they learned that they had received the scholarships. They credited their hockey programs for not only teaching them the game of hockey, but the game of life as well.
“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 of his initial response to receiving the scholarship. “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, echoed the same sentiments about the Snider hockey program.
“It’s truly an honor and it definitely speaks volumes about the program,” he said. “I’m ecstatic. This really helps financially. Money is tight and college is expensive. Once I graduate college I want to give back (to Snider Hockey) and help kids there.”
The Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, founded by Neal Henderson, is the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program. The Ed Snider Youth Hockey foundation was created by the founder of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
The two programs 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 at no or minimal cost.
But the programs aren’t just about lacing up the skates and shooting pucks. They have educational components. Participants must attend school and keep their grades up in order to practice and play. Some of the programs provide additional academic services to help kids in school.
Shaw and Lucas believe the NHL/TMCF scholarships will inspire kids in “Hockey is for Everyone” 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.
Henderson stressed that the scholarships are academic and described hockey “as a tool to be used for education.” But Lucas and Shaw said they’re not hanging up their skates when they go to college. Both have already been in touch with the hockey programs at their colleges and asked about playing.
Shaw thinks his chances are good because Elmira has varsity and junior varsity hockey teams. Penn State has an NCAA Division I hockey team but it also has a club hockey team that Lucas feels “could be stepping stone” to the big club.
“I just want the opportunity,” he said.