THE BIRTH OF ICE HOCKEY IN HARLEM
AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK, ICE HOCKEY IN HARLEM: 25 YEARS OF YOUTH HOCKEY.
“’Ice Hockey in Harlem’ was an oxymoron when we began,” said Dave Wilk, the founder of Ice Hockey in Harlem.
“Ice Hockey in Harlem started from an idea I had had much earlier when I was at business school,” Wilk began, tracing the genesis of the organization to its very beginnings. “I went to Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania back in the early ‘80s, and one of the essay questions was, ‘What if you had a year off and nothing to do?’ One part of my response was that I’d start a program for hockey in an inner-city environment. Fast forward seven or eight years later to 1987. I was working for the Seagram company as a finance manager. I had played college hockey at Rutgers and wanted to do something to help kids, so I got the idea to help kids play hockey. There was a group that Seagram supported called the Upward Fund, located on 119th Street. It was an after-school program. They had officers in the Seagram building, so I met with them. Gene Kitt was the executive director at that time. He was incredulous when I made the suggestion. I remember him saying, ‘Our people don’t play hockey.’ He agreed to give it a try, but he also had the idea to incorporate some sort of session where volunteers would talk to the kids, a sort of hockey class. We agreed it should be more than just kids going out and playing hockey. So I went into Harlem in September of 1987 and I met with some kids who were playing street hockey with Upward Fund. They were interested in playing on ice as well. That’s how I started to recruit the first group of kids. I scrounged equipment from CCM, and we got this program off the ground.”
Todd Levy was one of the first volunteers Ice Hockey in Harlem had, and 25 years later he’s going strong with IHIH as chairman of the board.
“I met Dave after the program had been running only a few weeks,” Levy began. “I was 19 and going to New York University doing a major in fine arts, looking to become a professional photographer. I was working part-time for New York Newsday, and they assigned me to take a photo of a guy who had just started this new organization in Harlem that involved hockey. That’s how I met Dave. The picture took about a minute to do, but I stayed and talked to him for two hours. I returned to Newsday and pitched them a full story, and they did the most beautiful two-page spread. It was unbelievable.”
“We started with 25 kids that very night,” Levy continued of Ice Hockey in Harlem’s first class.
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Meet Our Team
John Sanful, Executive Director
Brad Preston, Program Manager
Jabari Scutchins, Program Coordinator
Charles Atkinson, Program Assistant
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Nick Boulukos, BMO Capital Markets
Jason Crelinsten, Proskauer
Todd Levy, Prosperian Wealth
J. Gregory Milmoe, Skadden Arps
Ken Ottenbreit, Stikeman Elliott
Marc Pinto, Janus Capital
Peter Reagan, JP Morgan Chase
Andrew Sexton, Wunderman
Marc Shore, Shore Assets
Craig Stanton, Bader TV
Ralph Susca, American Airlines
In 1988, Wayne Gretzky (third from right) and the Los Angeles Kings came to Lasker Rink and met with Ice Hockey in Harlem students. Pat Hickey (second from left) remains active with IHIH.
Mike Gartner (left) and then IHIH student Bernard Smith in 1993. Gartner served for a time on the IHIH board. Bernard Smith went on to graduate St. Lawrence University and is CEO of UA Marketing + Management. Bernard was named one of the top ten rising talents under the age of 40 by Brand Week magazine.