DENVER (CBS4) – As the Colorado Avalanche fought to secure their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years in game four of the conference finals, thousands of Avs fans packed into Ball Arena for a watch party. With every $10 ticket for entry, children around the Denver Metro area were promised an opportunity to learn the game of hockey through after school programs.
Kroenke Sports Charities, a branch of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment which owns the Avalanche, helps expose children around Colorado to different sports. No matter their abilities or their zip code, KSC donates money to children through Colorado-based nonprofits. The organization also has helped communities during time of crises like the Marshall Fire.
One organization that KSC helps fund is the Denver Prep League, a group that helps introduce students in Denver Public Schools to hockey. Middle schoolers throughout DPS are able to learn the game through floor hockey. Floor hockey removes the barrier of needing access to ice, instead giving youth the opportunity to play the game on any surface with sticks, uniforms and goals.
"There was no floor hockey in middle school (before.) So, Kroenke Sports donated sticks and gear and created an actual program for all of us," said Sam Beardshear, a senior on East High School's hockey team.
Beardshear, and his teammate Nick Chadd, were among the first in DPS to start playing hockey through the Denver Prep League. Now, they play for Denver East's ice hockey team which recently won the state championship.
Both said they were impressed to see how many kids found a love for hockey thanks to KSC and DPL.
"They would literally range from people that had never touched the ice, never held a stick to a couple people who played in gym. But, mostly it was just anybody that wanted to play," Beardshear said.
"Because floor hockey is such an accessible sport of hockey, because you can just pick it up and play anywhere, it definitely was beneficial," Chadd said.
KSC Executive Director Deb Dowling told CBS4's Dillon Thomas the longstanding effort of the organization to expose children to sports is evident through the success of programs like Denver Prep League.
"It is our privilege and our obligation to be good neighbors and use our platform to help people out," Dowling said. "The kids in DPS were learning about the sport, they fell in love with the sport, and then they graduate up through the runs and became hockey players."
Dowling said, by funding programs which get kids involved in sports, KSC also plays a role in assuring children are staying in school and prioritizing their grades so they can remain on the teams.
The team shared they raised more than $117,000 for KSE Charities.
"We want to give the students a chance to learn about all sports," Dowling said. "It is really important for us to be able to provide the experience for kids to learn about hockey."
"(I just want to share) a big thank you. Because, it really does provide the accessibility to the people who don't play the sport and don't have access to ice hockey to still be involved and play the game we all love," Chadd said.
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