Jonas Siegenthaler and Nick Jensen Visit Fort Dupont

Posted February 1, 2020

Siegenthaler, Henderson, and Jensen. Photos by Caps Outsider

“You’ve gotta keep your stick down!” Coach Neal Henderson called to one of his players from the bench. But it wasn’t a routine practice happening at Fort Dupont Ice Arena, as two of the Cannons teams ran regular drills alongside two special guests: Caps defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler and Nick Jensen.

It was the first visit to Fort Dupont for Siegenthaler and Jensen, as they became the latest of many Capitals players who have visited over the years. The Caps have also provided quite a bit of support to the organization as the D.C. Council waivers on its funding.

The practice was divided into the two age groups, as Siegenthaler and Jensen took turns running drills, shooting, passing, and playing keep-away. For the early parts of practice, the kids worked entirely on their skating – no pucks – a skill Coach Henderson preaches as extra important.

In between drills, the kids found opportunities to speak with Jensen and Siegenthaler, asking them about their favorite animals, and more than once asking them where Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were.

“We just want to put into their minds that anything is possible,” Jensen said of the kids getting an opportunity to skate alongside professionals. “Hopefully I’ll see them in the NHL some day.”

Coach Henderson, who was recently inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame, says having professionals swing by is very important. “It inspires them to do better when they see the Caps come out because we talk about the Caps sometimes when we’re having our meetings to let them know that the Caps came up the same way.”

The privilege isn’t lost on the kids, either. “I think the type of organization that they put for the other kids is one where everybody is welcome,” said Raphael Belcher, 10, who plays on the house league, and who has been hanging out at Fort Dupont since he was three.

Coach Henderson founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Program (FDIHP) in 1978. The program provides local Washington D.C. youth the opportunity to participate in organized hockey. The Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only full-size indoor ice arena in the city, and the Cannons are the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America.

“I’d like some day to see that each one of these kids can come back and say that they have enjoyed their lives in hockey and that it has raised them to the fact that it has given them the discipline that they need to help them grow their lives and grow whoever’s with them in a feeling of understanding of each other.”

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