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In honor of MLK Day, the Clark Park Coalition teams up with Ice Hockey of Harlem

The goal of the program is to expand access to free youth hockey
Posted at 3:15 PM, Jan 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-14 15:15:32-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Here's a fun fact, Detroit's Clark Park rink is the only NHL-sized outdoor hockey rink in metro Detroit. The rink is also an inclusive place for youth coming from all walks of life to learn the sport for free.

For 17-year-old Angela Martinez and 16-year-old Evelyn Valenzuela, hockey is everything.

"I like the competition," said Martinez.

"My goal is to go to the USA Hockey team playing for the women," said Valenzuela.

Martinez is from New York City, and Valenzuela is a Detroit girl. And even with different backgrounds, both still understand the value of being able to be part of a male and white-dominated sport.

"It's not just a one-person sport, you know. It's like everyone can join, whoever wants to," said Valenzuela.

"There are definitely challenges, but I think if we work hard enough, we can overcome them," said Martinez.

Martinez represents Harlem, a team on its first-ever Big Apple-Motor City tour.

"It's an enrichment trip for our players, ages 15 through 18. Where they get to play hockey but also meet kids from a different part of the country, see different parts of the country, and hopefully leave feeling inspired," said Malik Garvin, Executive Director of Ice Hockey of Harlem.

The goal of the 20-member squad led by Garvin is to have a few scrimmages with the Clark Park team.

"One of the reasons we are holding this tour is to honor Martin Luther King Day. Our sport is not very diverse. We are the change we want to be. And that's exactly what Dr. King represents. And for us, the struggle and the battle of hockey and inclusion never ends because we love it so much," said Garvin.

The head coach of Clark Park's hockey team, Stephan Vitvitskoi is on a mission to expand the Clark Park Coalition youth program that benefits over 100 kids each year from the ages of 4 to 15.

"The opportunity for Hockey Harlem to come here has been great," said Vitvitskoi.

Meanwhile, Martinez plays left winger on the rink, and Valenzuela handles the center position. And even though both feel they are shorter than most other players, they don't let anything come in between their games.

"I just remind myself that I have the same skills that they do, so no matter size or color, I can still do it," said Martinez.

"Nothing intimidates me," said Valenzuela

For the Clark Park Coalition to keep the program free and available seven days a week, they need sponsors and donors. To learn more about it and even how to register your child, call 313-841-8534 or visit, www.clarkparkdetroit.com.