LAKE WORTH, Fla. (WSVN) — Nearly three dozen young hockey hopefuls in South Florida spent more than a month learning how to play the game, thanks to the Florida Panthers.
Panthers forward Anthony Duclair wrapped up a six-week Learn to Play hockey children’s clinic in Lake Worth, Sunday.
“I see their faces, they’re very happy to see me, and I’m a kid at heart,” he said. “It’s pretty easy for me to come down here and connect with these kids, talk about hockey, talk about life.”
Thirty-five children ages 5 to 9, from all backgrounds, hit the ice with Duclair. They learned skating and puck handling skills.
“When I was young, I met a professional hockey player. I was so starstruck,” he said, “and I remember talking about it with my friends in school, and it was a big thing, so hopefully I touched them the way I was touched. It’s just a great feeling to see these kids have fun out here.”
For Duclair, it was special to interact with one 6-year-old player.
“You’re so fast. There you go,” he told the boy.
In May, the boy’s father tweeted a picture of his son and tagged Duclair. In it, the boy is holding a hockey teddy bear that he named Duclair “because he’s brown and plays hockey like me.”
“He looks up to me because I’m a Black hockey player, so, for myself, that really touched me, and I’m glad that I met him today,” said Duclair. “I gave him a stick, and he was really happy about it. Hopefully, that can connect with a lot of minority kids looking to play hockey.”
For Duclair, it’s important to teach the game to all children. Everyone is welcome at the clinic.
“I know that growing up, all the problems that happened, happened when I was younger, so as soon as we can take care of that at an early age, I think, when everyone gets older, we know what to expect,” he said, “and the more we can get minority kids into hockey programs, the better it’ll be for everybody.”
Former Panthers players Peter Worrell and Kevin Weekes are also involved in the clinics in the U.S. and Canada, teaching children from all backgrounds how to play hockey.
For more information about the Learn to Play program, go to floridapanthers.com/learntoplay.
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