On Wednesday, February 6th, the bipartisan Congressional Hockey Caucus hosted Hockey Day On The Hill, an event that showcased new initiatives from the NHL and the NHLPA to further grow the game of hockey by incorporating it into the STEM curriculum in schools all over the United States. Also, Gritty was there, and so were your intrepid hosts, Julie and Amy.
An Act of Congress
The Congressional Hockey Caucus is a bipartisan group of Members of Congress dedicated to advocating for the growth and expansion of all forms of hockey in America, including ice hockey, ball hockey and street hockey. The Caucus, co-chaired by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. Tom Emmer (R- MN), Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), recognizes the profound effect that all forms of hockey has on building healthy and vibrant communities and families in our country through the sport. All were present for a briefing during the day of Hockey on the Hill, and prior to the program presented by the NHL and NHLPA, they were very vocal about their love of the game, and what an influence it had on their lives as children, young adults, and even now as elected officials.
Rep. Pete Stauber, of Minnesota’s 8th District (the Duluth area) shared that not only had he been given the opportunity to sign an NHL contract and be “privileged to earn a living playing the game I loved, “ he also stood behind the community in Humboldt, Saskatchewan when running for office. He kept one of their jerseys at his headquarters and campaigned with the “Humboldt Strong” message as a mantra. Others, while fans, also had the opportunity to play, and continue to take the opportunity whenever they can. Rep. Katko mentioned that he aspired to play Division I hockey, but around the age of five, realized that he “sucked.” He went on to coach at several levels, and still plays recreationally. He had fluid drained from his knee earlier in the week so that he could play in the Congressional Tournament that was scheduled to take place later that day.
These are men that know and love their hockey, but they want other men and women to know and love it as well. Stauber said, and rightly so, that “No child should ever have the ability not to play the game because of the cost.” He, along with his congressional colleagues, touted the culture of hockey – its values of respect, building a work ethic, growing leadership skills, and learning to think and grow as a part of a team – as what lead them to where they are today.
Growing the Game Through Education
Joining to brief the Caucus in front of a standing-room-only crowd of between seventy and eighty people (including recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Willie O’Ree), were representatives from the NHL, NHLPA, and Everfi (an education technology company), along with Kathy Moore, a teacher from Thornburg Middle School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. They spoke of the joint venture from the NHL, NHLPA, and Everfi, called the Future Goals program.
The Future Goals Program teaches important skills with a STEM sports curriculum that helps prepare kids for success in life. Using hockey as a STEM learning vehicle, the program helps students understand the real world applications of science and math principles. Included in the curriculum are topics such as the engineering behind equipment, calculating ice surface area and volume, and even studies of mass, velocity, and kinetic energy – all in relation to the game of hockey. Through a $20 million investment, the NHL and the NHLPA provide this resource to all schools across the country at no cost, with strong participation in the largest districts, including the New York City Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Chicago Public Schools. Ms. Moore spent time talking about the season tickets to the Washington Capitals that she shares with another teacher, as well as the fact that her classroom is decked out in Capitals gear. She says this program is a “godsend” to teachers who need more and more ways to show kids how STEM subjects can relate to things that they can do now, so that eventually it may lead to a career path, and even (the NHL hopes) a path to fandom.
While the program is great for teachers and students, it’s also a resource for players, who may move from team to team and sometimes one end of the country to the other, and are always looking for ways to give back to their community. Having the Future Goals program available in 24 of the NHL’s 31 current markets, with plans to expand to more rural areas as well as additional hockey towns, provides consistent programming across the country as an option for players to engage with school-age kids in their area – another way to grow the game.
The results of the program thus far are extremely positive. Since 2014, Future Goals has been a part of the training of over 2 million students (in 5th through 8th grade), 42% of whom were in a school where the majority of students qualified for the free or reduced lunch program. Students are engaged in the program every day, and to date, have a culmination of 5.8 million hours of STEM learning since the program’s inception.
Skills On Display
Following the briefing, there was a hockey skills demonstration as well as the opportunity to sample some of the technology behind the Future Goals program. Computers were set up with certain STEM education models to try, and representatives from the FutureGoals program and Everfi were available for questions. Ms. Moore’s students also attended. Everyone was Rocking The Red, although one could tell that some of them were bigger hockey fans than others. Skill levels ran the gamut as well, but everyone was there to have a good time while they learned, which was the message of the day for the adults as well as the children.
The class was treated to a hockey skills demonstration by members of the Washington Capitals staff, as well as Olympic Gold Medalist Haley Skarupa, from the USA Women’s Hockey team. It’s not often that you get to brush up on your hockey skills with someone who’s sporting their gold medal, and these kids certainly took advantage of their opportunity. They also got to meet some NHL mascots – Slapshot from the Washington Capitals, N.J. Devil from the New Jersey Devils, and Gritty from the Philadelphia Flyers.
At the end of the day, kids had some fun while learning about how to hold sticks and puck-handle, while taking shots with stellar athletes, and adults learned about (and could participate in) a wonderful initiative that will hopefully be spreading to more schools across the country. The NHL and NHLPA will continue to provide this program at no cost, and move their focus on STEM learning to involve more girls and students of color, as they recognized that their current fan base, comprised mostly of white men, will be a minority once the current school-aged population graduates. It was encouraging that the briefing audience was at least one third women, and that Ms. Moore and her fellow teachers are great examples of women who love and promote the game of hockey in their classrooms every day. We hope that the NHL and NHLPA will maintain their sponsorship of creative and forward-thinking ways to bolster their fan base.
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