- Red Wings forward happy to help kick off annual Street Hockey in the D: At School program
The guiding mission of the Detroit Red Wings’ groundbreaking Learn, Play, Score platform is to build confidence and character while imparting fundamental life skills to youth across Detroit.
And on Tuesday afternoon, Joe Veleno embodied that mission by playing floor hockey with students at Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School in northwest Detroit to help launch the Red Wings’ annual “Street Hockey in the D: At School” program, powered by Chevrolet.
“Any chance I can get out into the community means a lot to me,” Veleno said. “I was once in their shoes. We’re trying to help grow the game of hockey. A lot of these kids don’t get the opportunity to play hockey. So to introduce it in school, while it’s a little different, puts a smile on my face when I see these kids have fun.”
From Jan. 30 – Feb. 9, more than 34,000 students at various K-8 Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) locations will participate in the innovative street hockey program in their physical education classes.
“It’s all about growing the game of hockey,” said Ryan Gustafson, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E), who was also in attendance Tuesday. “The best way to do that is by partnering with the schools. Having the buy-in from our partnership with DPSCD, having educators and everyone involved in this just makes the entire experience better. It helps us grow the game and impact kids’ lives, which is what this is all about.”
Helping lead hockey skills stations alongside several IS+E Community Impact colleagues, Veleno’s smile was one of the biggest in the room full of excited students.
“I never had these opportunities as a kid,” Veleno said. “To have an NHL player come to your school, talk to you and show you how to play definitely means a lot to me and hopefully to them.”
“Street Hockey in the D: At School” is an important program because it promotes healthy lifestyles and helps students create new memories, according to IS+E Director of Community Impact Kevin Brown.
“To see tens of thousands of students each year experience the joy and excitement of hockey in their physical education classes is unlike anything we’ve experienced as an organization,” Brown said. “The growth of the game is so important to the Detroit Red Wings. We know that access leads to opportunity, which ultimately opens doors for kids to dream big through the power of hockey.”
Stepping away from the everyday grind of an 82-game NHL season was refreshing for Veleno, who said he is enjoying his second full campaign with the Red Wings. On the ice this season, Veleno has recorded 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 47 games.
“Although we’re winning some games and the vibe has been fun, there’s still a lot in our game that needs to improve, like every other good team,” Veleno said. “But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. We must play in the moment, not look at what could happen or what other teams are doing. We just want to be able to control what we can, and that’s winning hockey games every night.”