Ice hockey is one of America’s favorite sports, and its popularity among kids is growing. Boys and girls throughout the U.S. are putting on skates and hitting the ice to participate in this fun, fast-paced game.
Hockey, like other sports, helps kids stay physically fit, teaches them about teamwork and sportsmanship, and is a healthy way to manage stress. But for some military kids, playing hockey is a luxury their families can’t afford. Hockey can be an expensive sport. Basic equipment, uniforms, association fees, and tournament costs can set you back well over $1,000—add in hockey camps, lessons and clinics and the costs quickly escalates even more.
Because of these expenses, youth hockey can be out of reach for many military families who may be dealing with financial difficulties associated with a deployment, medical expenses, or frequent relocations. A group of active duty soldiers noticed this barrier to hockey participation and wanted to make the sport more accessible to military children. To give kids the opportunity to play, they founded Defending the Blue Line.
Established in 2009, Defending the Blue Line is a non-profit organization that helps military children start or continue to play hockey while their parents are defending the country. It provides children of military members with free hockey equipment and NHL and college game tickets, free or discounted hockey registration and camp tuition fees, and more. Defending the Blue Line is supported by private donations, corporate partnerships, volunteers, and many professional hockey teams and players.
Since its inception, Defending the Blue Line has donated over $3 million worth of hockey equipment, cash grants, hockey summer camps, and game tickets to military families across the United States and Canada. It has helped 10,000+ military kids participate in the game of hockey, sent more than 2,000 children to hockey camps, and more than 7,000 servicemembers to NHL games.
Defending the Blue Line has been so successful, the organization started Defending the Base Line, which provides military families with free baseball equipment, and financial assistance for registration fees and other baseball-associated costs.