Red Wings, Tigers open Black History Month with first Game Changers honor

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers are proud to begin the second year of the Game Changers series, presented by Comerica Bank, beginning with a celebration of Black History Month.

The first Game Changers honoree for Black History Month is lifelong Detroit resident Jason McCrimmon, who is the founder of Detroit Ice Dreams and the ambassador for the Red Wings’ pioneering Learn, Play, Score program.

“We’re thrilled to kick off another year of honoring incredible community leaders making a positive impact on kids every day with our partners at Comerica Bank,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Game Changers is set to grow in 2022, celebrating more impactful leaders and introducing networking opportunities for community partners at Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park.”

McCrimmon is a former inner-city youth hockey player who began his journey at Jack Adams Memorial Arena as part of the Detroit Hockey Association. He played Division III college hockey at Wisconsin’s Northland College before transferring to UMass-Boston and Suffolk University.

After college, McCrimmon played four years of professional hockey in the U.S. and overseas, becoming the first African American to be named captain of a Finnish hockey team.

Once he hung up his skates in 2012, McCrimmon wanted to give kids an opportunity to enjoy hockey and have representation within his neighborhood, so after the Detroit Hockey Association disbanded, he created Detroit Ice Dreams.

“The Detroit Hockey Association was a home away from home for us, so I kept helping out when I played college, junior hockey and professional,” McCrimmon said. “The program dissolved and there was a void there, so I decided to start Ice Dreams.”

Detroit Ice Dreams is dedicated to promoting and subsidizing hockey for underrepresented youth in the community. The organization provides high-quality recreational, social and mentoring support while encouraging academic excellence and the promotion of community involvement. It also provides a college scholarship program to help students with tuition and supplies.

“We encourage more than just hockey. We stress accomplishing great things on and off the ice,” McCrimmon said. “Ice Dreams supports the need to establish positive values, goals, invaluable life skills and positive involvement in the community as leaders and productive members of society.”

Participants of Detroit Ice Dreams engage in several community initiatives each year, including volunteering at Gleaners Community Food Bank, and feeding and distributing blessing bags to the homeless. Every year the organization also proudly hosts a Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway and Back to School Backpack Giveaway, as well as an Adopt a Child/Family program for Christmas.

“We couldn’t think of a better honoree to kick off our 2022 Game Changers series than Jason McCrimmon,” Brown said. “Serving as the Red Wings’ official Learn, Play, Score ambassador since 2020, Jason uses his personal experience and deep passion for hockey to inspire thousands of kids across Detroit to dream big through the sport each year.”

McCrimmon is proud of how much Detroit Ice Dreams has grown since its inception eight years ago, but he is most proud of how much his former participants have grown as human beings.

“Seeing the kids from 2014 to now, some of those kids played in our junior program, some of those kids are in college right now, some are graduating,” he said. “I’m proud of the part we played in incorporating different values from the game of hockey into our program. They took what they learned and are doing a lot of great things outside of hockey.”

McCrimmon, who is also is the first African American majority owner of a Junior Hockey program — Motor City Hockey Club — is happy to provide representation in his community and show kids with similar backgrounds that anything is possible.

“You see it, you can do it. If you’re in a situation where you know the support system is there, anything is obtainable,” McCrimmon said. “It’s even better to see a guy that you know came up the same as you and become successful. You can be a doctor or a lawyer or a garbage man, whatever you choose to be, just being able to take care of your family and give back to the community is a success in so many ways.”

McCrimmon said being celebrated as part of the Red Wings and Tigers Game Changers is a full-circle moment and an incredible honor.

“It’s huge. I’ve been going to Joe Louis Arena since I was a baby,” he said. “To be part of the Red Wings in any capacity is amazing, let alone being honored for what we do in the community, I think it’s huge. I’m very grateful and excited.”

McCrimmon is thrilled to see the Red Wings and Tigers in their second year of promoting Game Changers in the community and said it’s a big opportunity to shine a spotlight on hard-working people making a difference in metro Detroit.

“I think it’s great. You’re in a situation where you’re touching different backgrounds,” he said. “The city has so many diverse people, and now we’re able to get a spotlight on those people. I think it’s huge that the Red Wings and Tigers are doing this. Game Changers is a way to get to an arm out there to reach different people.”

Despite all the incredible work that McCrimmon has done, he has no plans of slowing down any time soon. His ultimate goal, beyond seeing his participants doing great things in the community, is having one of his kids become a member of the Red Wings organization.

“When we have this conversation five or six years from now, we might have a kid in the Red Wings organization, or we could have a kid who’s working for the Red Wings,” he said. “Anything like that that lets us see the growth of Detroit Ice Dreams or the Learn, Play, Score program, to actually be part of the Red Wings organization, I think would be amazing.”

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