By Christina Wilkie - 03/08/11 12:19 AM EST
The biggest hockey fan in Congress, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), had a novel idea late last year. Touring the Capitol on a ceremonial visit with the Stanley Cup, he thought, “What if we could bring hockey to the White House for kids, the way [President Obama] has done with basketball?”
At the time, the idea was unprecedented, and Quigley didn’t have White House approval, but he went ahead and told a group of hockey-playing youngsters that they would get a chance to play street hockey at the White House.
“We’ll have kids in [Washington] Capitals and [Chicago] Blackhawks jerseys,” Quigley said of the White House street hockey clinic scheduled to take place on the South Lawn. “Hopefully the first lady will drop the first puck, and we’ll have Blackhawks shifting in, as well as a few members of Congress.”
Quigley couldn’t resist a little hockey trash-talking aimed at his buddy, Buffalo, N.Y., Rep. Brian Higgins (D). “I invited Higgins out to play, and I hope he does, but I bet he’ll be in that ugly, ugly Buffalo [Sabres] jersey.”
For Quigley, it’s all part of making the game of hockey more accessible to more kids. “Arthur Ashe used to say, ‘Tennis should be for everybody, it’s not a country-club sport,’ ” Quigley recalled, but he acknowledged that hockey is “especially” difficult for some young people due to geography and cost.
An avid hockey player who’ll proudly tell you he’s had “hundreds of stitches” due to puck-related injuries, Quigley recently launched a street hockey initiative in Chicago. “At my first practice, there were 300 kids out there, a real rainbow of kids, and they loved playing hockey.”
Look for Quigley to skate circles around his fellow lawmakers this Thursday at the Verizon Center during the Congressional Hockey Challenge, where a congressional hockey team featuring Higgins, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and freshman Reps. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) will take on a team of lobbyists to raise money for the Fort Dupont Hockey Club.