Dozens of children exited Fredericksburg’s brand-new roller hockey rink with smiles and new street hockey sticks in hand during its grand opening at Dixon Park on Sunday.
Excitement continued to buzz in the air after representatives of the Washington Capitals, Fredericksburg City Council, Fredericksburg Parks, Recreation & Events Department, the Fredanthropist program, Fredericksburg Youth Roller Hockey and Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce held a ceremony and ribbon-cutting for the rink earlier that afternoon.
The children who left the roller hockey rink just finished an hourlong clinic, supervised by representatives of the Capitals. During the clinic, the youth, ages 8-14, got to navigate hockey balls around cones and score goals with their guidance and encouragement.
Their training culminated in a scrimmage, where children with red hockey sticks versus blue hockey sticks put their skills into action.
Their clinic was the first of three held at the rink. The group of children were among the first of many more who now have the opportunity to play street hockey without being far from home.
The rink is the 11th that the Washington Capitals has partnered to open in Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Fredericksburg’s rink is the first where three clinics were needed to teach the more than 350 children who signed up to participate.
The opening of the 185-foot-long and 85-foot-wide rink comes on the heels of the Capitals’ victory on Saturday evening, winning 5–2 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Most important to the representatives of the Capitals, the City and families is that thanks to the rink and its supporters, hockey can now be introduced to a new generation of fans.
Siblings Addison Grecco, 9, and Vincent Grecco, 7, agreed that their favorite part of the clinic was playing the scrimmage.
The scrimmage was the highlight for many of the young players.
Harvey Williams attended the event wearing a Capitals jersey with his two sons, also in jerseys. They drove from Colonial Beach.
“They love hockey,” Williams said. “They don’t have the opportunity to play unless they’re out in the front yard.”
He said the Fredericksburg rink gives them an option to play hockey on a rink that’s much closer than Northern Virginia.
“For this to be here is huge for us,” he said.
Joe Danielson was among several participants who played in a hockey league in the Fredericksburg area when he was younger.
The league initially met at Stafford Baptist Church before moving to the Slapshotz rink in Fredericksburg. Three out of four of Danielson’s daughters now play hockey, and one of his daughters was participating in the clinic.
His 5-month-old son looked on from outside the rink. “He’ll be out there soon,” Danielson joked.
The rink will be open for anyone to use from dawn until dusk, sharing the park’s operating hours.
Fredericksburg Youth Roller Hockey founder Brandon McVade said that the rink offers the safest environment for children to learn how to roller skate in addition to playing hockey. Often he said, children learn how to roller skate on the street, where there can be glass, uneven pavement or cars.
The youth hockey league currently meets at The Field House.
“My job, really, is giving them the opportunity to experience this sport that can be difficult to experience if you don’t have the right facility and the means,” McVade said during the ribbon-cutting.
But the Capitals’ impact doesn’t only extend to the rink.
Each of the City of Fredericksburg’s four public schools—Hugh Mercer Elementary, Lafayette Upper Elementary School, Walker-Grant Middle and James Monroe High School—will receive equipment and training for the students to play hockey. The equipment, branded with the Washington Capitals’ logo, includes hockey sticks, pucks, balls and two pop-up goal nets.
Peter Robinson, director of youth hockey development with the Washington Capitals, said one of the team’s goals through investing in rinks was to provide access to hockey fans young and old.
“This was a huge community effort,” Robinson said during the ribbon-cutting. “There were so many people involved in making this happen. Once the conversation started, the constant thread that kept coming up over and over was Fredericksburg loves the Caps and loves hockey.”
Robinson paid tribute to Fredericksburg resident and Washington Capitals alum and Hall of Famer Rod Langway, who attended the grand opening.
There are big plans for the rink, according to city and Nationals officials. There’s the potential for youth leagues, adult leagues or women-only leagues in the area.
The Capitals will also host Fredericksburg Day during its game on Jan. 5, 2020, against the San Jose Sharks. Fredericksburg fans have the opportunity to receive special ticket packages and a round-trip Spirit bus to the arena. To learn more about the program, visit Fxbghockey.com.
The city and youth league are looking for volunteers to coach or help establish the upcoming spring youth hockey league. To learn more, contact Sports & Fitness Manager William Mitchell at 540/372-1086, ext. 214.