ATLANTIC CITY — I only found out recently that Mr. Art Dorrington was the first African-American signed to a National Hockey League contract. I was at the A.C. International Airport last month scanning the historical banners hanging from the ceilings there.
I had to laugh, because when Dorrie “Judah” Dorrington and I were growing up together, she never told us that her dad was an ice hockey star. She never told us that he was originally from Nova Scotia, which has an interesting black history all its own. I imagine to her, he was just “Dad,” as she always says with a smile, looking very much like him.
To the children of Atlantic City, though, Mr. Dorrington has meant “On the Ice — Off the Streets,” his not-for-profit organization entering its 14th year.
Every year, his organization finds at least 30 economically disadvantaged Atlantic City students, ages nine to 13, and introduces them to ice hockey. Once a week, the children learn ice hockey skills and once a week, they are in class to learn life skills, such as conflict resolution and drug awareness. No class, no ice.
Mr. Dorrington began the local program after being asked to speak to participants at Ice Hockey In Harlem. He approached the mayor and others, who enthusiastically supported him with money and equipment, when the Sea Skate Ice Pavilion opened on the boardwalk. Today, they meet at the Skate Zone on Albany Avenue.
Mr. Dorrington’s own career began when he played for black hockey leagues in Nova Scotia. A friend of his in Nova Scotia got him a try-out with the Rangers in Milford, Connecticut, before he moved on to their eastern affiliate, the New York Rovers. On the road, homesick and bored with a segregated social life away from team members, he left New York City and headed down to Atlantic City to play for the Sea Gulls. No doubt, the thriving Northside community he found in A.C. in the 1950s felt like an attractive fit; plus, he met his wife-to-be while here. They were married for 54 years before Dorothie Dorrington passed away in 2004.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Mr. Dorrington returned to a hockey career with Johnstown, Washington and Philadelphia before working in the county sheriff’s office. At 5 feet, 9 inches, the NHL described him as “a fine skater and a good shooter” who led the league in scoring in 1955. His jersey was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, but he could not retire his love of the game or all it had taught him.
To date, more than 400 children have come through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, where education, opportunity and life skills are stressed as much as the sport. In 2006, the students won the Hockey in the Hood tournament in Detroit. Mr. Dorrington has been Atlantic City’s Softball Commissioner since 2002.
I was surprised and honored when they asked me to be the guest speaker at this year’s Installation and Awards Dinner. It will be held at the Mays Landing Country Club on Thursday, Nov. 10, from 6:30 to 9:30pm. Tickets are $50 per person and tax-deductible. This year’s honorees are Tyrone Logan, Jr., and Barbara Gilliam. For tickets or more information, call 609-344-7871. You must RSVP by Oct. 27.
Turiya S.A. Raheem was born and raised in Atlantic City. Currently an English teacher at Atlantic Cape Community College, she loves to describe her neighborhood as “the other Atlantic City,” because it was not the casino-resort mecca most people know today. It was a place with a “cozy, down-home feeling” as she describes in her 2010 book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside.
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� Life of Art Ice hockey pioneer Art Dorrington signed a contract with the New York Rangers in 1950. As a member of the Atlantic City Sea Gulls, he became the first black professional hockey player in the United States. Dorrington is still making news, this time for his work with local youth through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, which provides free hockey equipment, instruction and educational programs for low-income youth. Dorrington retired from the Atlantic City Sheriff's Department in 1994. He rounded up the financing to start his youth program in 1998 with the motto, "On the ice, off the street." This past year he was inducted into the Atlantic City Hall of Fame. As part of the Atlantic City Free Public Library's salute to African-American History Month, on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2pm, Dorrington will talk about his career and life. We spoke to him for a preview. Q: When you signed with the Rangers, was the expectation that you would get a chance to play in the NHL? A: Yes. I was supposed to stay in New York and play with the New York Rovers but they were on the road. The Rangers had an agreement...
Jacob Lawrence Day in Atlantic City