As part of the 10th annual Hockey Weekend Across America, which has morphed into Hockey Week Across America, we are bringing you a series of features surrounding the celebration of players, coaches, officials, rinks and the many volunteers who make our sport great.
As a long-time Minnesota high school hockey coach, Larry Hendrickson has spent decades helping grow a number of successful high school programs.
His son, Darby, played a pivotal role in helping the Minnesota Wild get off the ground as an NHL expansion franchise in 2000.
Now, this first family of Minnesota hockey is helping grow another sector of hockey. Through the Hendrickson Foundation, Larry and his family are growing disabled hockey by proving that hockey truly is for everybody.
Larry Hendrickson, a catalyst in Minnesota's disabled hockey growth
After working with the Herb Brooks Foundation for years, Larry was asked to raise funds and increase awareness of disabled hockey in Minnesota. The self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” features three different variations of disabled hockey – special hockey, sled hockey and the warrior division.
This led to the formation of the foundation in 2011. Since its inception, the Hendrickson Foundation has supported different teams in many ways. The foundation has also lent financial support to help teams travel to USA Hockey’s Disabled Hockey Festival.
Money is raised for the players and teams through fundraisers and galas throughout the year along with soliciting various corporate sponsorships. This money then gets given out to the players and teams.
Recently, the Hendrickson Foundation gave each Minnesota Special Hockey player a jacket with their individual team logo on it.
“Every hockey player in an association has a jacket like that,” Larry said. “We wanted the kids to be able to wear their jackets around town like everyone else."
In the coming weeks, the Hendrickson Foundation will also sponsor a national tournament at the Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota. This three-day celebration of disabled hockey in early March will feature each Minnesota disabled team along with a number of teams from outside the state.
“As the foundation and different programs have grown, we wanted to give our players the chance to play in a national tournament right here in the state of hockey,” said Danny Hendrickson, another son of Larry’s and the associate executive director of the Hendrickson Foundation.
“Our main goal is to make this the greatest show of support these players have ever seen."
For the organizations that benefit from the Hendrickson Foundation, such as Minnesota Special Hockey, this foundation lives up to its tagline of “Hockey Changes Lives.”
“The Hendrickson Foundation has provided us such fun events,” said Jane Cashin, president of Minnesota Special Hockey. “We’ve gotten to skate with the Gophers and skate at the Xcel Energy Center. It’s a wonderful organization.”
And like most experiences with disabled hockey, those who work with these athletes get as much out of it as the participants.
“It’s been humbling and rewarding to meet all of these wonderful people,” Danny said. “They truly show that hockey changes lives."
Minnesota Wild Sled Hockey Competes in National Competitions
|Sunday, Feb. 19||NBC's Hockey Day in America|
|Monday, Feb. 20||Salute to Players|
|Tuesday, Feb. 21||Salute to Coaches|
|Wednesday, Feb. 22||Salute to Officials|
|Thursday, Feb. 23||Salute to Local Rinks|
|Friday, Feb. 24||Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day|
|Saturday, Feb. 25||Try Hockey Day|
|Sunday, Feb. 26||Celebrate Hockey Heroes|
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Please note, #HWAA is the main hashtag throughout the week.