‘South Florida is a hockey town’: NHL announces donation to rebuild outdoor rink in Fort Lauderdale

The National Hockey League announced a $120,000 donation to support the renovation of an outdoor hockey rink at Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park Saturday morning, amid the festivities of the League’s All-Star Weekend, currently taking place at the park and throughout South Florida.

The donation comes as part of the NHL’s Legacy initiative, a project that gives back to the communities of cities that host NHL events.

“Thank you for choosing us,” said Matt Caldwell, president and CEO of the Florida Panthers, in a brief speech outside the Parker Playhouse on Saturday. “I know you have 32 cities that you can choose for the All-Star game, so I’m glad you see that South Florida is a hockey town.”

The hope is to make South Florida even more of a hockey town, and not just for pro athletes. The $120,000 will go towards renovating the existing roller rink, as well as programs to promote the sport in the South Florida community, especially for girls, Caldwell said: “The girl’s program is going to be the core of this.”

He was joined by fellow National Hockey League executives, Fort Lauderdale officials, children with the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Lauderdale, and the two Florida Panthers players participating in the 2023 All-Star Game on Saturday, Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk.

The Florida Panthers and the city are also currently in the process of building two new ice rinks at the War Memorial at Holiday Park, one for the community, and one to serve as a new practice rink for the Panthers, with stadium seats for fans to watch the players. The site will also include a major concert venue and a restaurant.

“The presence of the Florida Panthers continues to make itself known,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said in a speech. “Across the street, we’re going to see two brand new hockey rinks, one for practice play for the fabulous team that we have here in our community, but also for the community, also for you guys, the kids, the families, the parents to brush off those skates and get back on the ice.”

The two ice rinks should be “up and running,” by summer, said Commissioner Steve Glassman, who represents District 2, which includes Holiday Park.

Another All-Star weekend effort to promote hockey among underserved communities was criticized by Gov. Ron DeSantis a few weeks ago, when he described a job fair that coincided with the events called “Pathway to Hockey Summit” as “discriminatory” because the ad for the fair said that participants had to be members of certain minority groups to attend.

The League said the ad’s wording was a mistake and revised the wording, and the job fair was held on Thursday.

On Saturday, speakers celebrated the League’s efforts to make hockey more accessible.

“In this community, we’ve seen the generosity and the heart and love and just the heartfelt pouring out of embracing those who are underprivileged, and those who are in disadvantaged communities,” Trantalis said in his speech, “to see how an effort such as this can include everybody, how diversity and inclusiveness is the definition of Fort Lauderdale.”