Last February, on the eve of the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend in South Florida, the then-Florida Panthers forward said he was committing himself to making hockey more inclusive, combating racism in the game and growing the sport in the region.
And on Wednesday afternoon, at a high school about 7 miles northwest of where the Anthony Duclair Foundation’s launch party was held that night last year in Fort Lauderdale, there was a groundbreaking for the first synthetic outdoor ice sheet in Broward County.
Although Duclair now plays for the San Jose Sharks after they acquired him in a trade with the Panthers on July 1, he said his commitment to the South Florida community remains strong.
“This is a second home for me and it is great to be back,” said Duclair, who played three seasons for Florida. “I promised when I started the foundation that we were going to 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.”
With representatives from the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, local dignitaries and members of the Panthers front office in attendance, Boyd Anderson High School Principal James F. Griffin II praised Duclair for bringing hockey to his community and his school.
Duclair and Bokondji Imama, a forward playing for the Ottawa Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville, held youth development camps in Florida and Montreal last summer.
Those youth camps will return -- one at the Panthers IceDen in nearby Coral Springs in June, and one in Laval, Quebec, in July. A third camp will be held in Oakland, California, near San Jose, in April.
The charitable arms of the Panthers and Sharks are sponsors of the Anthony Duclair Foundation.
Some of the biggest cheers from the students on hand Wednesday came when Duclair spoke of growing up in Montreal and being of Haitian descent. Boyd Anderson High School is located in a large Haitian community. The school has a 98 percent minority enrollment, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Duclair, who was joined by Imama at the event Wednesday, hopes introducing the students at Boyd Anderson and those in the surrounding community to hockey will help continue to grow the game in the area.
“This is a perfect spot with all the ethnicities and different backgrounds,” he said. “It is personal to me since there is such a big Haitian presence.”