While Mavericks Hockey is supported by fans of all ages, it was current and former Maverick players who were cheering on approximately 40 kids from North Omaha as they took to the Holland Ice this month.
In a partnership with Omaha NorthStar Foundation, an all-boys after-school program to help young men become successful in academics and in life, hockey players gave lessons to 20 middle schoolers on Friday, Oct. 21, and 20 elementary schoolers on Friday, Oct. 28.
On each of the days, the NorthStar participants arrived at Baxter Arena to find their own Mavericks jerseys, complete with a NorthStar logo on the back courtesy of Lawlors Custom Sportswear, as well as helmets and skates.
Players, including several record-holders like like Andrew Wong (1999-2003), Bryan Marshall (2004-2008), and Mark Bernier (2006-2010), were able to help suit each of the kids up and then take them to the Holland Community Ice.
NorthStar Foundation President Scott Hazelrigg said the opportunity was unlike anything the students had experienced before.
"For many of our students, this was their first time on skates,” NorthStar CEO Scott Hazelrigg said. “ The laughter and smiles spoke volumes about the boys enthusiasm for the experience."
Once on the ice, some fared better than others, but for those struggling, players were able to guide using walkers with tennis balls covering their legs, construction cones and sometimes their own bodies.
The Northstar Foundation is doing great things to make a difference for young men in the Omaha metro,” Marshall said. “We were more than happy to support their efforts. It was fun having the opportunity to get on the ice with the kids. I know most of them have never skated before so some of their reactions were priceless. I think they all had a good time out there.”
“I thought it was really fun to see how all of the kids started off holding onto the boards and by the end of the skate they were all over the ice flying around,” added former Maverick forward Dan Swanson.
Even with the occasional fall and bumped head, it was hard to miss the smiles on the faces of each kid as they circled the ice.
“It was the best fieldtrip I have ever been on,” said Fifth Grader John Griffy (Central Park Elementary). “One of the best days of my life."