HOCKEY CHARITY All-girls program gets gear from pros
Mooney graduates Marc Gregory and Tim Shannon helped to make it possible.
By RYAN JONES
BOARDMAN -- The Columbus Blue Jackets Breakaway Tour provided an afternoon filled with fun and games for Mahoning Valley children on Sunday at Boardman Park.
In an effort to promote hockey throughout communities of Ohio, Marc Gregory, executive director of marketing for the Blue Jackets, presented 27 full sets of equipment to the recently-established Youngstown Borderhawks, an all-girls hockey program.
"We feel it is our responsibility to foster the growth of the sport around the state at all levels," said Gregory, a former Cardinal Mooney High graduate. "We are accomplishing this by giving kids the chance to play hockey and by donating equipment."
Tim Shannon, another Mooney graduate, has been involved with the development of youth hockey in the Valley for the past several years. He contacted Gregory with a wish that a girls program could be started, but he knew equipment costs were burdensome.
"Marc told me that the organization had a fairly large amount of money available for community promotion of hockey and that I should apply for a grant," Shannon said. "It was a lot of work applying for the grant, but it has paid off well."
First visit to area
This marked the first time that the Breakaway Tour visited the Valley and also the first time grant money was allotted for a program outside of the surrounding Columbus area.
In addition to the ceremony, a street hockey rink was set up and available for youth to use.
Former Boston Bruin legend, Willie O'Ree, the first player to break the color barrier in the NHL, was amongst the youth of the Valley serving as part coach and part referee.
O'Ree, currently the director of youth development for NHL Diversity, travels the country hoping to provide youth with the chance to experience hockey.
"I think it is important for all boys and girls to have the opportunity to get involved with a new sport," O'Ree said. "We had kids here today that had never held a hockey stick before."
NHL Diversity has played a part in the development of Youngstown youth hockey as well. Shannon applied for a $10,000 grant over a year ago to help pay for equipment and ice time costs.
As for O'Ree, he has no plans of letting up.
"I feel as director of NHL Diversity and as a former player that I have something to give back to the community," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun and will continue to take part in as many events as possible in the future."