The Tucker Road Ducks, the proud pink jersey-wearing youth hockey team, is still flying high, despite being homeless after a fire severely damaged its home rink nearly a year ago.
The outpouring of support following the January 2017 blaze at the Tucker Road Ice Arena in Maryland’s Prince George’s County continued Monday as the NHL Players’ Association’s Goals & Dreams fund donated 25 sets of new hockey equipment to the minority-oriented youth hockey program.
The NHLPA learned of the Ducks’ hockey dilemma from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who connected the youth team with the players’ organization.
“The Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization and the Ducks Hockey Program are extremely happy about this grant award!” said Alexandria Briggs-Blake, president of the Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization. “The cost of equipment is challenging for many. The Ducks are going to benefit greatly from the players’ generosity. It is all about supporting our kids and their love of hockey.”
The Goals & Dreams program helps youth hockey organizations around the world give children around the world a chance to play the game, Orpik said.
“After outlining what the Tucker Road Ducks organization has accomplished over the past three years and is going through since the arena fire, G&D was very interested and I am excited we can assist them,” he added.
The Ducks are a legacy of the Tucker Road rink’s “Give it a Shot” initiative, which provides equipment to kids interested in learning how to play hockey.
The initiative produced enough players three years ago to field a pee-wee/bantam team under the tutelage of Coach Rahman-Rahim B’ath and a cadre of parents like Briggs-Blake and Koi Hamm.
The team strives to make hockey accessible by making it affordable, charging parents $250 a season, a fee that includes gear. Other youth teams in the area charge two or three times that amount for a season.
After January’s two-alarm blaze damaged the rink, the Washington-area hockey community opened its arms, rinks, and wallets to help the Ducks play through the 2016-17 season.
The team’s GoFundMe web page has raised $11,230, including $5,300 from The Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the Capitals.The team received support from the Chicago Blackhawks, and Meghan Duggan of the U.S. women’s national hockey team.
The Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is also doing its part. It unveiled a two-phase overview plan in October to rebuild the damaged rink and eventually add a second rink. The project could cost up to $20 million.
The damaged rink is projected to reopen by Fall 2019. In the meantime, the commission and the Ducks’ parent organization have arranged for ice time at the Herbert Wells Ice Arena in College Park, Maryland, and the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf, Maryland.
Another rink, SkateQuest in Reston, Virginia, gave the Ducks free ice time during the summer.
“Not at inconvenient times, they were given ice on Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon,” said Briggs-Blake, whose son, Antonio, is a Tucker road rink alum who plays for the New Jersey 87’s in the Eastern Hockey League Premier. “It really helped.”
Still, Briggs-Blake said parents worried that not having a home rink would cause player recruitment and retention problems, which could put the program in jeopardy. M-NCPPC came up with a solution to alleviate the concerns: a slickly-produced YouTube recruitment video.
“It helps give the team exposure and get African-American kids and all kids of all culture, creeds and all walks of life. That’s what the Tucker Road Ducks are all about,” Briggs-Blake said. “We’re hoping that kids come from everywhere to play.
“We know it’s a challenge,” she added. “But the ones that stick with us, they’ll be the first ones on the team when the new rink opens!”
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