Budget woes and date changes don’t slow down enthusiasm of annual Detroit winter event!
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
For the eighth straight year the annual Hockey In The Hood held at the Jack Adams Arena in Northwest Detroit and the Clark Park Ice Arena in Southwest Detroit was an enthusiastic success despite the change of venue, financial woes and the lack of out of state teams who travel to the city for the annual event.
The event, which started in 2004, is put on by the Detroit Hockey Association and the Clark Park Coalition during Black History Month to promote ethnic and racial diversity in the sport of hockey. William McCants, president of the Detroit Hockey Association, explained the reasons why of the date change and the absence of several out of state teams to the annual event.
“The event would have been held February 17, 18 and 19 at the start of the Detroit Public Schools winter break,” McCants said. “We would’ve had more teams and clubs come in from out of town. But the Detroit Red Wings scheduled outdoor practice that weekend at Clark Park which created a conflict so we moved it to February 24, 25, and 26.”
“The teams would usually travel that week because their schools are on winter break the same time Detroit is. This would make travel easier to come. Many teams also lacked the funds to travel to come because of the economy .Another reason was that there was the NHL Willie O’Ree Skills festival that was held in Buffalo (New York ) last weekend as well. We didn’t want to come in conflict with that. We’re going to make an effort to move HITH back to the third weekend in February. We’re gong to work with the NHL, the Red Wings and the (Detroit) Recreation Department to put it on like we usually do increase the turnout.”
The out of state teams that usually come, Fort DuPont (Washington, DC), Columbus, Ohio, Wasilla, Alaska, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, weren’t able to make it. But the biggest difference this year was the number of suburban and outstate hockey clubs that came in to play.
“Our hockey clubs, the Detroit Dragons and the Clark Park Coalition, are the ambassadors of hockey for the city,” McCants said. “We hope to continue to break down the stereotypes about Detroit where people are going to get shot or robbed. The suburban kids look forward to come here.”
Several players on the Detroit Dragons Pee Wee Squad (11-13 year olds) are very happy to participate in Hockey In The Hood because of the different teams they face every year.
“We get to play travel teams from the suburbs,” said defenseman/winger Devin Coppebge, 11, who’s a student at Pierce Middle School. “It’s fun and you can get a chance to test your skill in the tournament.”
“I like Hockey In The Hood because it’s fun because you play against teams you don’t know about,” said center Marc Alexander, 11, a student at Gesu School. “You get to play different teams you normally don’t play.”
“I like Hockey In The Hood because it’s challenging,” said defenseman Kamile Seyrbrsca, 11, one of the few girls on the team and student at Flagship Charter Academy. “You meet new people and experience different things. You also find out what teams are better, good as you or worse.”
“The suburban teams came down and helped us financially because the city’s budget woes,” McCants said. “With word of mouth, the word about HITH got around.”
The suburban teams at this year’s HITH were the Canton Crossfire, Farmington Hills Scorpions (Farmington Hockey Association), the Livonia Blues, and the Royal Oak Jets and Royal Oak No Names. The outstate teams were the Chelsea Bulldogs, the Kensington Valley Generals and the Flint Hockey Club.
Members of the Farmington Hills Scorpions really enjoy playing in Hockey In The Hood because of the City of Detroit according to their coach John Matthews.
“All of the kids wanted to be here,” Matthews said. “They asked me are we going to Hockey In The Hood this year.
“We had a choice of going to another tournament or Hockey In The Hood. The kids wanted to come here.”
After their shut out win over Royal Oak, the Farmington Hills Scorpions showed their enthusiasm about playing on the outdoor rink at Clark Park.
“The atmosphere is really cool,” said goalie Andrew Eaton, 12 of Farmington. “The cold is different and being outside is amazing.”
“I like it because I normally don’t play outside that much and it’s different,” said center Brayden Aldrich, 14 of Farmington. “Coming to play hockey in Detroit is no problem at all.”
“I feel it’s an honor to play here,” said Farmington Hills resident and defenseman Matthew Downey, who’s also a student at the University Of Detroit Jesuit High School. “It’s great to play in the city I go to school in.”
“I love it (playing outdoors),” said left winger Brandon Matthews, 14 of Farmington Hills. “I wouldn’t miss it (HITH) even if I had a chance. I’ve been here at Hockey In The Hood for three years now and I like playing outside because this is really a neat tournament. This is my fourth time playing here at Clark Park.”
HITH not only attracted teams from the nearby suburbs but also outlying rural and other cities from outside the Metropolitan Detroit Area.
“We play in the same league as the (Detroit) Dragons,” said Rich Frazee, a coach of the Chelsea Bulldogs Pee Wee squad. “We’ve played down here before when we were put in the same division as the Dragons. I really enjoyed playing at Clark Park because of its outdoor arena. We wanted to see how it is like playing in Detroit.”
“Although the numbers were down at Hockey In The Hood this year, the enthusiasm is still there,” said Steve Benavides, director of the Clark Park Coalition. “The economy is down and teams have to have fundraisers to get here.”
“But Hockey In The Hood is helping the sport grow in the city. The numbers of kids in the Learn To Skate program at Jack Adams and Clark Park are way up. The kids find the programs fun and thriving. The parental support is even there. I like to see more rinks in the city because Jack Adams and Clark Park are the last two left.”
“We have a partnership with the city recreation department. They’re helping us keep the doors open. If the economy keeps improving as it is now Hockey In The Hood 9 will be even bigger.”
One of the volunteers at Clark Park, Bill Deuparo, said the kids look forward to HITH because they get to play games outdoors. He explained that the kids find joy playing a game on an outdoor rink.”
“It’s different playing a game outdoors because most teams play on an indoor rink,” he said. “The kids like playing outdoors because they haven’t played a game outdoors before.
“Watching all the kids play here brings back memories when I used to play here. You have the cold weather, the wind and the snow…and the kids just love it.”
“It’s still a lot of fun. We at Clark Park look forward to Hockey In The Hood every year because kids from the community who normally don’t play come out for the games. I hope they keep it (HITH) going for a long time.”
Benavides concluded that the Clark Park Coalition is glad to have the suburban teams to come in and play the kids from Clark Park, Jack Adams and other visiting squads.
“We’re happy to have Hockey In The Hood here,” he said. “Hockey is a unique sport and we want all kids playing are culturally diverse environment.”
For more information about youth hockey or Hockey In The Hood contact Will McCants at the Detroit Hockey Association at 1-313-646-6458 or Steve Benavides at the Clark Park Coalition at 1-313-841-8534.
This was printed in the March 11, 2012 - March 24, 2012 Edition