The Steel City Icebergs and Pittsburgh ICE are charitable hockey programs that give members who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity a chance to learn the game.
The Icebergs program is for children and adults with developmental disabilities while Pittsburgh ICE -- which stands for Inclusion Creates Equality -- provides socially and economically disadvantaged kids ages 6-18 with the resources to play.
Both groups are free of charge, save for USA Hockey's mandatory $40 registration fee, and can offer players any equipment they need.
The programs got a huge boost this week when the Robert Morris hockey team donated each program 50 pairs of the most expensive -- and fastest to be outgrown -- piece of equipment: hockey skates.
"We strive to fit every boy and girl who comes to our organization with complete hockey gear, from head to toe, so that is why this donation of skates is such a valuable asset," said Cathy Buck, who is the ICE community outreach coordinator, at a news conference Thursday. "Skates are always something you never seem to have enough of. I can guarantee every pair of skates will be given away when we do our equipment exchange."
The donation was made possible by Bauer, which donates 100 pairs of skates to be rented out for a recreational skate at the site of the NCAA men's Frozen Four, which was held at Consol Energy Center this year. The host team is allowed to select local programs to give the skates to. The skates come in all sizes and have been used only once.
"We felt that these were needy groups, and we felt helping out the Icebergs and the ICE was a priority of Robert Morris University," Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. "They're groups that play out of our arena, and their groups got to participate in the ['Hockey is for Everyone'] program, so it's pretty neat to keep including them in the afterglow of the Frozen Four."
The Icebergs are part of Pittsburgh Special Hockey, an adaptive program for those with autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injuries and other developmental problems, according to its website. Other Iceberg values include using the scoreboard only to keep track of time and a very loose interpretation of offsides and icing. They play for enjoyment.
"Our goal is to offer skills development and competition opportunities free of charge," Icebergs President Stephanie Maust said. "If someone comes to me and says they can't afford [the USA hockey fee], we try to find a sponsor for them. We try to cater to the needs of the individual."
Some players in her program stuff their feet in skates several sizes too small so they can play, Maust said. Others are threatened by the cost of owning quality equipment of their own, so this donation will go a long way.
"It means a tremendous amount to these families because, typically, special needs families have tremendous out-of-pocket costs with medical care," she said.
"Most of our individuals have multiple health issues, so to be able to offer a program free of charge is what makes it feasible."
Families looking for more information on the ICE can visit pghice.com or email email@example.com to register. The Icebergs are at pittsburghspecialhockey.org and have a registration event from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island.mobilehome - rmusports
Nick Veronica: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @NickVeronica.