The Buffalo Sabres announced the team will expand its partnership with Hasek’s Heroes to include it in the organization’s “Learn to Play” program.
The Sabres, in conjunction with the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund (“IGF”) and Pure Hockey, will provide at least 150 full sets of hockey equipment to children enrolled in the Hasek’s Heroes “Learn to Play” program. Through this joint effort, IGF funding will provide equipment, Hasek’s Heroes will provide ice time and facilities, and the Sabres organization will provide certified coaches, instruction, lesson plans and a program graduation ceremony.
A press release stated, “ ‘Learn to Play’ is a program under the IGF umbrella that provides a unique opportunity for families to join the hockey community and for participants to develop fundamental skills to help them succeed both on and off the ice.”
Buffalo Sabres Youth Hockey Ambassador Patrick Kaleta said, "Growing up in Buffalo, I have witnessed the incredible passion and potential that young hockey players and families from underserved areas of our community possess. It is our responsibility to ensure that they have the same opportunities on and off the ice as I did. We believe that this affiliation will help us to build a stronger, more diverse and more inclusive hockey environment in our community.”
With a directive to create a developmental hockey program for economically disadvantaged youth in Buffalo, Sabres alumnus Dominik Hasek created the Hasek’s Heroes program in 2001. Through Hasek’s Heroes, underprivileged youth are provided with the equipment, ice time and coaching needed to play organized ice hockey. The organization strives to provide a safe and welcoming setting for all children and families who wish to participate in the sport.
“Hasek’s Heroes has a rich history of providing youth in the Buffalo community with access to free hockey equipment, ice time and coaching instruction, as well as developing leadership skills in youth to build character off the ice,” said Rob Knesaurek, NHL senior vice president, community development and industry growth. “Together with the Sabres, the IGF is excited to contribute funding to help grow this grassroots initiative and make the sport more welcoming, inclusive and accessible.”
During the 2023-24 NHL season, the National Hockey League Players’ Association and National Hockey League are celebrating 10 years of the IGF, which was established to create opportunities to help grow the game of hockey, with a focus on the youth demographic in underserved communities both on and off the ice. Over its first decade, the IGF has dedicated more than $180 million to develop programming, create initiatives, host events and provide education that drives awareness and brings hockey to communities across North America.
Hasek’s Heroes will begin its “Learn to Play” program this month with the first sessions taking place at Cazenovia Ice Rink at 25 Cazenovia St., Buffalo, on Thursday, Nov. 30; and at Reuben “Bud” Bakewell Ice Rink at 2607 Niagara St., Buffalo, on Monday, Nov. 27.