A year ago, former Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair launched his charitable foundation to combat racism in hockey and grow the game in non-traditional markets.
That included South Florida, where he stood in front of friends, supporters, media, and Panthers teammates when he launched the Anthony Duclair Foundation during the NHL’s All-Star festivities in Fort Lauderdale last year.
Duclair kept that promise.
Even after getting traded to the San Jose Sharks this past summer, Duclair stayed true to his word and broke ground on a new synthetic ice rink at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes on Wednesday.
“This is a second home for me, and it is great to be back,” Duclair said. “I promised when I started the Foundation that we would build rinks here and it does not matter that I got traded away; I am going to honor that and even go beyond that.
“South Florida will always have a special place in my heart, everyone was so good to me here. It is a no-brainer to try and grow the sport down here. This is a perfect spot with all the ethnicities and different backgrounds. It is personal to me since there is such a big Haitian presence.”
The Panthers reciprocated that energy and showed Duclair some support, with general manager Bill Zito and a few front office members stopping by the groundbreaking event to show their support.
“I didn’t expect Billy [and the front office] to come by,” Duclair said. “I definitely appreciate it and it speaks volumes to what type of men they are. They treated me like gold in my time here and for them to come by, and [Vinny] Viola to donate a lot of money last year, I’m extremely grateful for that.”
With parents Wendell and Dominique being Haitian immigrants, Anthony Duclair built himself a reputation as a role model to a large Haitian population in South Florida during his three-year run with the Panthers.
It was something Duclair dreamed about from the time he was a kid playing hockey, and going through the hardships that come with the culture of racism in hockey, he hopes to help erase with his foundation.
“It was a dream come true,” Duclair said. “I didn’t know it was possible.
“I knew I was going to be involved in the community because that’s just how I was raised by my dad and my mom: To give back and think about others before yourself. That’s just how we grew up and what me and my little brother saw, but I didn’t think this was ever going to be a possibility to be honest. I’m just happy it all came to fruition.”
Duclair’s impact does not stop with the new rink.
He plans to host another hockey camp for kids in South Florida alongside Ottawa Senators forward Boko Imama, as he did last year.
The camp will also return to his hometown of Laval, Quebec, and open shop for the first time in Oakland this summer.
As for the rink, Duclair said it should be ready to go in “three weeks to a month.”
The Duclair Foundation joined with the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association’s Industry Growth Fund in purchasing the 100-foot by 50-foot rink near the Boyd Anderson football stadium.
The NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund donated $50,000 to purchase sticks, pads, helmets, goal cages, and skates for use on the rink.
Some of the $100,000 donated by the Panthers Foundation will be used for programs at the school and around the new rink.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “I can’t wait until that gets built.
“As soon as I’m back here, it’s definitely going to be one of my first stops because I want to try it out myself, then try it out with the kids as well. I’m looking forward to it.”
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WASHINGTON CAPITALS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
- This Season: At Washington: Panthers 4, Capitals 3 OT (Nov. 8). At Florida: Thursday; Feb. 24
- Last Season: Panthers won 3-0
- All-time Regular Season Series: Washington leads 67-46-13, 9 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Colorado, 6 p.m.