WLS Chicago: Hockey on Your Block
The following story originally aired on WLS on February 22, 2014. If you have difficulty viewing the video, click here.
Blackhawk Johnny Oduya: I think around being 16 you start to realize, that ah, you’re, you’re good, but you never really know where it’s going to take you.
ABC 7 News Anchor Jim Rose: For Blackhawk Johnny Oduya, his knack for hockey has earned him eight seasons in the NHL, two of those with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawk. Oduya’s day with the cup, meant whisking it back to his native Sweden.
Oduya: It’s one of those days, that ah, you ah, you always remember.
Rose: He ushered it to the rink that he first played, he’s even treated school kids on Chicago’s Southside to an up close look, and whether he wants the distinction or not, this son of Kenyan father and Swedish motheris a role model, especially for young African Americans.
20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran: Johnny’s a role model, you know he’s had that skill, and he’s, he represents achievement, he represents can-do, he represents championships, and so we want to represent all of those things here.
Rose: You see, out of 750 active NHL players, only about four percent are of African descent. Oduya says he’s only felt ill effects of his minority status, a handful of times.
Oduya: There’s been a couple incidents where something like that would come up, but ah, usually, ah, I have teammates that react more than I do.
Rose: But the lack of diversity in hockey has many factors, accessibility to ice rinks, exposure to entry level programs, and probably most of all, pricey equipment and training.
Oduya: It’s an expensive sport, it’s tough to play when, ah, when you’re, ah, I don’t know, like lower class or even middle class.
Rose: That is where, Hockey on Your Block steps in.
Congressman Mike Quigley: The NHL tells the world that hockey’s for everyone, well it’s only for everyone if people have access.
Rose: Congressman Mike Quigley and buddy Ray Lilja, launched the program two years ago.
Ray Lilja: The City of Chicago, incredibly, is one of the only cities in America that doesn’t have an inner city youth hockey program.
Rose: And so Johnny’s Ice House gives the ice time. Others donate all the gear and the instructors volunteer their time. All so kids, maybe some who’ve never even skated, can learn the game. The Blackhawks themselves also help to support the program.
Tyrese Hall, goalie: If you don’t know how to skate, it, it’s hard for you. I like how the goalie, he blocks all theshots and, Christopher Jones, right wing: The usual reaction is, there’s no black people playing hockey, and I get mad because, you know, if they ask me look and watch the game, they’ll see there’s black people on the NHL.
Oduya: They look up to you, they want to be like you, it’s something that you got to kind of nurture in a way and then, for me that’s being, just being who I am.
Rose: And for Oduya, helping the Blackhawks hopefully capture yet another Stanley Cup, is what’s at the front of his mind these days.
Oduya: Trying to keep our mind in the right place, I think that’s ah, ah, that’s going to be beneficial in the long run.
Rose: What a really great person Johnny Oduya is, and as you can see he’s inspiring another generation, who are ready to hit the ice.