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My name is Hassan and I’m from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. When I was 3 years old my dad took me public skating for the first time and right after that he signed me up for a learn to play hockey program. I started figure skating around that time. When I was four years old, I played in my first house league against kids who were up to four years older than me and I’ll never forget that year. It was super tough being the little kid on the ice. The next year when I was 5 years old, I started playing travel hockey. Now I am 13 and this is my 9th year playing travel and it has taken me all over the country and the world.

When I was about 7 years old my dad brought me to NYC Roots Hockey (now called NextGen AAA & 43Oak). Most of the kids were 15 or 16 at the time and had been playing together for a while, but they welcomed me in. Playing travel hockey on the east coast, I did not come into contact with anyone who looked like me in my age category. During the day, I would go to school in very diverse settings and then drive to hockey practice in Long island or New Jersey and I was always the only black kid. Because of this, going to NYC Roots Hockey became a safe space for me and really helped carry me though time when I felt lonely, had problems with teammates and felt like I didn’t fit in.

I’m looking to network with other minority hockey players throughout the country and especially in the tri-state area. It seems like even when I see other black players there seems like they are sometimes hesitant to hang around each other. It’s almost like they feel they will be stigmatized if they do it. I’d like to see this issue, whether it’s real or perceived, to be thrown away. I’d like to see if we can form a group of minority hockey players in the tri-state area who can do skills sessions or scrimmage in the off season. As of now, most of the players from NYC Roots Hockey are in their early 20s and Nextgen AAA seems to only have a program for kids who are younger.

Although hockey is my favorite sport and I play it year round, I also play other sports on a competitive level. I have been a member of the Flushing Meadows Speed Skating Club for 7 years. I also play water polo, baseball, tennis, golf, cricket and soccer. I am also a certified scuba diver and next summer I plan on getting my coastal cruising certification for sailing.

If I could sit down and have dinner with one hockey player it would be Willie O’Ree. I have a deep respect for Willie O’Ree and I’d like to learn more about how he dealt with being the only black hockey player on many different levels when he was an active player.

The best advice that I’ve ever been given is to not waste time doing things that do not lead to me being better. Whatever I do in life should always be geared to achieving what I truly love and geared towards making me better and more successful.

My dream for men’s hockey is that it become more affordable and accessible to all communities. We have so many great athletes in this country who probably could have broken records as hockey players but didn’t have the money, family situation or opportunity to learn the game. I feel that sports like football and basketball do so much more to find great athletes and give them opportunities but hockey seems like such a tough sport to get into and even when you are in as a black player you don’t always feel welcome.

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