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Blackhawks, CPD Bring Hockey To Kids On The South Side

By Chicagoist_Guest in News on Feb 10, 2017 8:11PM

Photo: Evan F. Moore

By Evan F. Moore

Since the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup three times in recent seasons, the fan base has grown in just about every way imaginable.

Not only have they gained new hockey fans, they have also built on that interest by teaching their young fans the nuances of the sport—including kids who might not otherwise have access to the game.

At Seward Elementary in the Back of The Yards on Thursday, the Blackhawks Youth Hockey program, along with the Chicago Stars, a hockey team that consists of Chicago Police officers, held a Hockey 101 clinic through the team’s Get Out And Learn (G.O.A.L.) program.

The Hockey 101 event held a two-fold function. The first was to expose kids to hockey in an area where there are no ice rinks; and second, to show the police in a different light. Many children in Chicago see the police only when something bad happens.

G.O.A.L. reaches out to those kids who might not have an easy way into the sport by also reaching out to local schools. Each selected school receives two one-hour clinics from the Blackhawks youth hockey staff, and P.E. teachers are invited to a training session at the United Center. The schools keep the equipment used in the clinic, including 30 Blackhawks street hockey sticks, 30 hockey balls and two nets, according to team officials.

“The first part is introducing the kids to a game they normally wouldn't be exposed to. Hopefully they and the school would want to carry it forward,” said Jamal Mayers, former Blackhawks forward, and the team’s community liaison. “The other part is having the police here. This shed a light on why police officers are just like anyone else. They are great people who are doing their best to defend the city and keep it safe, while having a mutual passion for the game."

Joseph Barrera, a police officer and center with the Stars, echoed Mayers' sentiments regarding positive interaction with the police through hockey. “Seeing how the Blackhawks extend themselves to the community, we want to get involved like that. This goes beyond hockey. This is beneficial to everyone involved,”said Barrera. “This allows us to interact with the communities we serve and interact with the children in a positive way. Seeing a police officer on the street in uniform can be a bit intimidating. To see the softer side of the police through hockey shows a softer side under the vest.”

Berrera, a 10-year veteran of the police department, said kids ought to see the police outside of their uniform. He also told Chicagoist that the image problem with the police isn’t always on the community; it's up to the officers on the beat as well.

“There’s a lot of negativity in the news. I think that doesn’t represent everything that is going on, and there’s a lot positivity going on with this, and in other communities,” Barrera said.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson also made an appearance at Thursday's clinic. While giving the kids encouraging words about about being good citizens in their own communities, Johnson also told the group assembled about his own childhood hockey fandom.

“My mom thought my brother and I were going to be the first black hockey players. That’s how much I played hockey,” Johnson said. “I know you all see a lot of negative things in the news. This is the good stuff. Keep positive and stay away from the negative. When you keep doing stuff like this, in five years, you won’t have to see me.”

Seward officials were thrilled to have the officers and Blackhawks officials at the school. “We planned this to go with the mandate to keep kids physically active, so we called up the Blackhawks. I’m amazed that the Blackhawks are so generous with what they do with the children of Chicago,” said Seward Elementary’s Physical Education teacher Jen Moriarty. “They told me that are working with the Chicago Police Department, so I am overjoyed to see such a positive relationship with sports, law enforcement, and the student that are here.”

Photo: Evan F. Moore