By Stephanie J. Geosits
Nov 13, 2002
It’s difficult to find a sure bet in Atlantic City, but hockey pioneer Art Dorrington did back in 1998 when he started the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation which has flourished with the aid of local community members.
“Art had this idea for a long time,” said Frank Rudisill, who helps Dorrington coordinate the foundation. “When he finished his career, he came back to Atlantic City and this is something he wanted to do.”
Dorrington, considered to be the first black professional hockey player in history, used his connections with people in Atlantic City, where he played for part of his career and where he was a retired member of the sheriff’s department, to make this program come to life.
“Ice Hockey in Harlem asked me to speak at their program,” Dorrington said. “I saw that if they could do it in Harlem, I could do it in Atlantic City.”
Dorrington visited with the mayor and other members of the community upon his return. He sent letters to involve people in the hockey program and yielded about 30 volunteers and many supporters, large and small.
While many donations come in the form of personal checks, the foundation has benefited greatly from New Jersey’s Casino Redevelopment Act, which requires corporations to put money back into the community.
In addition, the ECHL’s Boardwalk Bullies and the Philadelphia Flyers donate a portion of the proceeds from their skills competition to the program. The two clubs have been great friends to the foundation. The Bullies even wore jerseys in the style of the old Eastern Hockey League Sea Gulls, Dorrington’s former team, for a game to help raise money for the program which uses the Sea Gull as its mascot.
One special supporter was Gene Hart, the late broadcaster for the Flyers and AHL Philadelphia Phantoms. The foundation’s top volunteer is presented with the Gene Hart Award at the Annual Installation and Awards Dinner.
Originally serving 11 kids in its first year, the foundation will provide a formalized educational component, as well as exposure to hockey, to 50 children this year who otherwise would not be able to participate.
“We don’t see ourselves as a hockey organization as much as a place for kids,” Rudisill said. “We use hockey as a carrot to get kids to come out.”