It’s the sixth annual Hockey Weekend in America, so get your game on!
If you are a hockey fan, the parent of a child who plays or both, then you already know a rink rat or what that is.
For those of you who don’t, Hockey Weekend in America was started by USA Hockey in order to broaden the appeal of ice hockey across the 50 states. A rink rat, by the way, is someone who spends the majority of his or her time in and around the hockey rink.
If you are not from a hockey hotbed like Minnesota, hockey is not the sport of choice. While the availability of rinks, leagues to play in and starter programs has been growing in the United States, hockey is generally not high on the popularity scale. It usually ranks below baseball, football and basketball in the US.
As a part of the Hockey Weekend festivities, fans are asked to don their favorite jerseys today.
Tomorrow is try hockey or bring a friend to the rink day and Sunday is celebrate local hockey heroes.
NBC Sports will be showcasing hockey on Sunday afternoon with nationally televised NHL broadcasts so check your local listings for games and times in your area.
Many rinks across the country also have activities scheduled throughout the weekend.
David Clarkson, a forward for the New Jersey Devils, got the puck rolling yesterday at the Ironbound Recreational Rink in Newark, New Jersey.
Clarkson donated 50 new sets of hockey equipment through the NHL Players Association Goals and Dreams Fund to the Hockey in Newark program.
Hockey in Newark was started in 2003 with five players who were hoping to play high school ice hockey in the area. It has grown to over 1,000. The Devils became involved in the program in 2004 when they agreed to move the team to the city in an effort to revitalize downtown Newark.
The Prudential Center is now surrounded with many new shops, restaurants and taverns.
Clarkson was on the ice yesterday afternoon with youngsters in the program handing out equipment, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“I believe you should always give back if you get the opportunity,” Clarkson said in an interview with Devil reporter Tom Gulitti. “You see these kids and if you get the chance to give back and do something for them, I think you should.”
The winger who is in his sixth season with the Devils and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is not a stranger to working with children or volunteering his time.
Clarkson also runs “Clarky’s Kids” in Kitchener, Ontario which helps children with cancer and their families. He played junior hockey for the Kitchener Rangers before being signed as a free agent by the Devils.
Just for Kids is another all-volunteer organization which helps professional hockey players get involved with children and hockey programs in the communities where they play. They have over 100 players who actively volunteer their time in over 30 cities in the United States and seven countries.
For more information, you can visit their website at http://hp4k.org.