Hockey isn't an activity one would associate with the Horizons Enrichment program. With Horizons catering to inner-city youth, one could reasonably surmise that these students have received too much -- if any -- exposure to ice hockey. This changed last Wednesday when Fitness And Sports Training (FAST) in Westport sent the athletes it trains -- mostly hockey players, to Greens Farms Academy and show the 144 students who hail from Bridgeport what hockey is all about.
And the students were enthralled while working with a US Olympic silver medalist Jonathan Quick, who also plays for the Los Angles Kings. The students relished the opportunity to view and touch his silver medal. Two other players who were recently drafted by NHL teams as well as other college hockey players. A college women's lacrosse player and a college football player were also present.
"This gives the kids a chance to interact with athletes," Horizons Executive Director Alex Lunding said. "Having them meet the athletes is a great opportunity for them."
FAST co-owner and trainer Jay Mountain said, "I think it went well. It was a great opportunity for our athletes to give back to underprivileged kids."
All the athletes made sacrifices while growing up. Sean Backman, who graduated from Yale University and signed with the Dallas Stars, trained at FAST for 10 years made hockey a top priority. Backman also took his education seriously and chose to go to Yale because he wanted to have something to fall back on after graduating from college.
Quick was a multi-sport athlete in high school before deciding to focus solely on hockey. Establishing a routine enabled him to succeed on the ice and in the classroom.
In fact, while the athletes talked about their accomplishments on the ice, the bigger message was the importance of getting a good education. FAST co-owner Tariq Qaddourah stated during the presentation that school comes first and getting a good education is paramount.
Cam Atkinson, who led Division I in goals and was in the top three in total points in the country, was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Atkinson, who led Boston College to the Division I title, will return to the Eagles for his junior year and for now, is foregoing the big bucks at Columbus.
"It's hard because I'm turning down a lot of money but I want to go back to school and get closer to my diploma and win another national championship," Atkinson said. "I hope to win the Hobey Baker award."
The students and the FAST athletes interacted well with each other and from the looks of it, everyone was having a great time.
"It's a good way to give back and see the joy we bring to these guys," Backman said. "It brightens up their day as well. I hope they grasp the importance of an education and do some things they love to do, whether it's hockey, baseball, basketball, football or lacrosse. As long as you do what you love to do and work at it."
Quick said, "It's good to give back to the community and help kids that are less fortunate than us. The kids don't seem to have a hockey background but they seemed to enjoy what we did."
Atkinson said, "It's unreal. Any chance I can come out and talk to these kids is a dream come true. You wish more people in our position would do it. These kids are young and they have a bright future. It's good to get to know these kids and what they want to do when they get older."