Duclair hopes new synthetic ice rink is a game-changer for students

The initiative put forth by the Anthony Duclair Foundation broke ground earlier this month with support from the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund.

Duclair hopes new synthetic ice rink is a game-changer for students

Feature Photo: IG/@duclairfoundation

For Anthony Duclair, the commitment to making hockey accessible to everyone who wants to play in South Florida is, in every sense, a groundbreaking labour of love.

On Feb. 7, the 28-year-old San Jose Sharks forward was on hand to help break ground on a  synthetic ice rink at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, a school where over 85 per cent of students belong to minority communities.

Duclair, who played three seasons with the Florida Panthers, was joined by representatives from the NHLPA, NHL and his former team who gathered to celebrate the impending construction of the 100-by-50-foot rink a project made possible through the work of the Anthony Duclair Foundation and NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund.

“Hockey has done so much for me,” said Duclair, who launched his foundation during the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend in Florida, which included a $50,000 donation from the NHLPA Goals & Dreams.

“It has opened so many doors and allowed me to live my childhood dream every day.”

The Anthony Duclair Foundation Glice Rink is fully funded by the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund, which was established in 2013 to support projects that promote long-term fan development and increase participation at all levels of hockey, particularly among youth.

Additionally, NHLPA Goals & Dreams committed $50,000 in cash and equipment to support programs on the new rink.

Duclair’s love for the game and his passion for sharing it with others was his main motivator behind the project.

“I know the demographic I am in, and I want to give the opportunity to others who might not get the same exposure to the game that I did growing up,” said Duclair, whose foundation’s mission is to ensure that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) children are granted safe and equal access to playing hockey in North America. 

“I do realize I am in a position to help in that department. I want to do everything that I can to bring as many people and kids along with me to share our love for the great game of hockey. Whether you make it to the NHL or not, it can do so much for you.”

It is a message Duclair often shares with the kids he interacts with.

“You build special bonds and relationships with people that you can carry with you the rest of your life. The sport can also open your life to new opportunities and adventures there is something special about hockey.”

The left wing, who played his first NHL game almost 10 years ago, will return to South Florida this summer to host his second development camp at the Florida Panthers IceDen for children between the ages of seven and 14.

He will also hold camps in Oakland, California, and his hometown of Montreal, Quebec.

Duclair hopes that through his work with the foundation, camps and other initiatives, that young Black and minority players will embrace hockey or deepen their love for the sport.

Inspiring stories are already the norm for the player who continues to be inspired by Willie O’Ree the man credited with breaking the colour barrier as the NHL's first Black player.

Last year at the hockey camp in Montreal where Duclair was joined by Bokondji Imama, currently with the Belleville Senators of the American Hockey League, spoke with a participant’s mother at the end of the program.

“A lady came up to me and Boko and said her son wanted to quit hockey because he was going through some tough times. But after camp, he was smiling again, and the mom said he wanted to start back up again.

“He was very shy we had no idea what was going on but when you experience these moments, you take time to appreciate the effect you can have on someone. That will never be lost on me.”

Duclair, the 80th overall pick of the New York Rangers in 2013, views his charitable work through a long-term lens.

“I am glad I started this now and I am very grateful for the help of so many people. I won’t be in the league forever, but I want to leave a mark on the game and help open the door for others.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds, five, 10, 15 and 20 years from now, to see how big this can grow. There is a lot to look forward to.”

Duclair’s mantra for his foundation work aligns with the words found on its official website: We want to be game changers.

“Willie O’Ree was that game-changing person for me that’s what I hope to be through what we are doing.”