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Donor Stu Siegel's love of hockey runs deep

12/18/2017, 11:00am MST
By Stu Siegel

From playing the game, to management to charity this donor loves the sport

Growing up on Long Island, street hockey was one of the regular after-school activities I did with my friends. In 1972, the New York Islanders started their first season, and one of their original players, Tom Miller, rented the home across the street from me. All of the kids near our block started playing street hockey in front of his home, hoping he’d come out to play with us, which he occasionally did. He also brought us sticks, pucks and tickets, making most of us into Islanders fans. Many of us, including me, started playing ice hockey. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one still playing today. At 54 years old, I play on two men's teams, playing twice a week.

I have so many great memories in hockey, from scoring the overtime winning goal in a peewee all-star game to winning the gold medal at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel playing for the USA Masters team. But the ultimate "sports fantasy" experience for me was having the opportunity to run the Florida Panthers as the team’s managing partner, CEO and NHL governor. I was with the Panthers from 2008 to 2012, when I sold my ownership interest.

One of the initiatives I took on with the Panthers was running the team’s charitable foundation. I used to say to our staff that not only were we doing poorly on the ice, but that we were also doing poorly off the ice with our community relations. I worked hard to get our players and staff involved in the community, focused on visiting schools, children’s hospitals, food kitchens, and other places where we could make a difference. I also started a program called Stick To Fitness, where we worked with Florida Governor Crist to create a fitness program built around hockey. It wasn’t hockey necessarily, but rather a circuit of fun physical activities, all of which used hockey sticks. Being in Florida, where most kids never played hockey, we just wanted to get hockey sticks in kids’ hands. We took our players to schools and other community clubs to run these programs, and we gave sticks to all of the children and donated goals and other equipment to the schools to enable them to continue running street hockey programs.

When USA Hockey launched the “It Starts with a Stick” program, I could immediately relate. I believe it is the ultimate grassroots program to introduce children to our great sport.

Just put a hockey stick in a child’s hand, and they will figure out ways to have fun with it. I have been financially supporting the program since it’s launch.

Stu Siegel

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