John Carlson, Fans Volunteer at Fort Dupont, Talk Country Music

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Posted June 3, 2012

John Carlson joins fans on landscaping duty. Earlier he fixed helmets, washed boards and told me, "I used my artistic ability to paint the white wall white." Good work, John. (Photo by Nicole Weissman)

John Carlson joined over 100 Caps fans Saturday to spruce up DC’s Fort Dupont Ice Arena. The crew’s tasks included taking inventory of equipment, landscaping, painting, and rink maintenance – all of which Carlson showed a talent for. Slapshot, on the other hand, was in attendance only briefly. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but I have a feeling  his lack of hands made him ill-suited for this kind of work.

This service project comes at a good time – Fort Dupont will open its rink again in July, and recently received on the order of $200,000 in renovations donated by a group of 15 DC area contractors. Between those contractors, these fans, and the ongoing work of Fort Dupont staff and volunteers, the facility will re-open in great condition.

Caps Community Relations Director Elizabeth Wodatch said that, as always, fans were quick to volunteer. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the fan response to these projects,” she said. “This one filled up in two to three days.”

Wodatch went on to say that seeing such strong fan interest even before learning that a player would be able to attend shows that fans are invested not only in the team, but genuinely in helping the community. Fans I talked to included a number of former youth hockey players who had played at Fort Dupont, as well as veterans of past Caps-organized service projects like the annual DCPS Beautification Day (which I’m told the Caps will participate in again this year.)

“I used my artistic ability to paint the white wall white.”

– John Carlson

And just like at past events, VIPs in attendance were quickly put to work. After I showed John Carlson how to wash the boards, he was more than happy to work while we talked. Carlson, a country fan, planned to attend both Saturday’s Nats game, which featured a performance by Big & Rich, and Sunday’s WMZQ Fest, headlined by Miranda Lambert. We also talked about tailgating (he doesn’t think Verizon Center is a good venue for it – should we prove him wrong?) and Carlson’s plans to spend most of the summer in DC.

But more importantly, I was interested to get Carlson’s take on projects like this one. Youth hockey in the US doesn’t receive the kind of support it does in Canada – something the American-born defenseman knows from experience. “I think if you see the way the NHL is going right now, kids want to be playing…” Carlson said. “But for Americans, some kids can’t afford it or get the ice time they need to go after their dreams.”

Carlson is right, of course, but facilities like Fort Dupont, a non-profit that makes its community programs “free or extremely affordable,” are a big part of expanding access to hockey. The rink re-opens on July 9 – check out more photos of volunteers in action below.

To learn more about Fort Dupont Ice Arena and its programs, visit www.fdia.org. Stay tuned for information about the Caps’ participation in 2012 DCPS Beautification Day, set to take place August 25.

Fan volunteers work to string new nets at Fort Dupont Ice Arena. (Photo by Nicole Weissman)

The landscaping crew got the best assignment, if you ask me. It was a beautiful day! (Photo by Nicole Weissman)

Matt demonstrates proper board-washing technique. Fort Dupont Ice Arena will be spic and span for it's re-opening on July 9. (Photo by Nicole Weissman)

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