The National Hockey League (NHL), Tampa Bay Lightning, and Lightning Foundation dropped the puck at a brand new outdoor ball hockey rink, donated as a legacy to the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. The rink, donated to the recently renamed Jeff and Penny Vinik Family Boys & Girls Club in Tampa, will service hundreds of youth in the area each year.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay provide safe environments for youth aged 5-18 years with space to engage in physical activities and structured programming after school. Their mission is to help all young people reach their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens.
“To be a part of such an amazing project that is supported by such a great organization is nothing short of incredible,” said Chris Letsos, President & CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. “This Club and all of its resources, including the rink, will bring such positive reinforcement to this community and its residents. And it is through this critical partnership that we are able to continue our mission of building Great Futures.”
The outdoor ball hockey rink at the Jeff and Penny Vinik Family Boys & Girls Club supports the NHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s commitment to growing hockey at the grassroots level. The rink will include a large playing surface that can withstand rain; permanent hockey boards; home and away benches; a scorer’s table; and expanded lighting to better accommodate outdoor play year-round. The donation also includes brand new youth street hockey equipment.
“When the opportunity was presented to us by the NHL to create an All-Star legacy leave behind in Tampa, we could not have been more pleased to work together on a street hockey facility for our youth,” said Jeff Vinik, Chairman and Governor of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Developing new hockey players and new hockey fans is mission critical for us as we look to grow the game in our community and we appreciate the opportunity to do that with members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.”
To celebrate the new ball hockey rink, Vinik was joined by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Diversity Ambassador Willie O’Ree, and 2018 Honda NHL All-Star players Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“The NHL is delighted to work with the Lightning to leave behind a meaningful legacy for thousands of youth in the Tampa Bay area,” said Kim Davis, Executive Vice President, Social Impact, NHL. “This ball hockey rink will provide local boys and girls with an opportunity to practice the values of hockey – dedication, perseverance, and teamwork – while also promoting the physical fitness necessary to play our game. We trust these skills will help them in their future endeavors as they grow up to become engaged citizens in their community.”
In addition to the donation of the rink, the League and Lightning have partnered with RISE – Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality – an organization that uses sports to improve race relations and drive social progress by bringing people together to promote understanding, respect, and equality. Together with the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s office, RISE will provide the Boys & Girls Club with educational programming “Full Strength: Uniting Communities through Hockey,” designed to create a positive interaction between local youth and the police.
“It’s important for youth and law enforcement to build trust and gain an understanding of each other’s perspective,” said Jocelyn Benson, RISE CEO. “At RISE, we believe that sports can be the unifying force that brings people together to foster these relationships and strengthen communities.”
The Legacy initiative is an ongoing philanthropic endeavor in which the League and the local Club support community organizations in the host city of an NHL Event. Since 2007, the League, its Clubs and partners have collectively donated more than $1.5 million to communities across North America. In the past decade, the Legacy Projects have aided thousands of hospital patients in recovery; helped at-risk youth and families gain better access to educational and vocational training; and provided greater access to people of all ages learn and play hockey.