Sam Lawrence

Sam Lawrence coaches a youth ice hockey clinic with the Chicago Blackhawks Get Out And Learn (G.O.A.L) program.

It’s rare to meet a hockey player in Hyde Park, especially after the skating rink at Midway Plaisance closes for the season. But Sam Lawrence, a Hyde Parker and lifelong hockey player, is trying to change that.

Lawrence is a floor and ice hockey coach with the Chicago Blackhawks Get Out And Learn (G.O.A.L) program, which “introduces hockey at the grassroots level to kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to try.” Through teaching the sport at public schools, community centers and outdoor rinks, Lawrence is at the forefront of the organization’s effort to bring the sport to more kids across Chicagoland.

He began skating at age four, when his father registered him and his twin brother for classes at McFetridge Sports Center on the city’s North Side. The brothers then took hockey lessons, and went on to play for numerous youth hockey clubs throughout the city and suburbs. 

As a Black player in a predominantly white sport, Lawrence said that he often experienced overt racism on these hockey teams. 

“There were coaches that did not want to pick me for their teams whether or not I was good enough to make them, there were coaches that didn’t want to play me in games” he said. “There were not that many Black hockey players… Over the years it’s become more accepting and accommodating, but for a long time, Black people weren’t allowed to play hockey.”

Though his competitive career ended upon graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2018, Lawrence maintains his passion for the sport through his work as a community outreach assistant with the Blackhawks. 

“I fell in love with (this work)... Helping out the community, going to different CPS schools, and seeing the kids’ faces when they see me leading the clinics as another Black person of color,” he said. “I felt like I was making a very big effect… Whether or not they’re going to be the next first round draft pick for the NHL or just want to have a job in hockey like me.” 

In addition to running clinics with G.O.A.L and First Stride (a program for kids with floor hockey experience to transition to ice), Lawrence and his team also provide hockey equipment and tutorials to physical education teachers. 

“I (don’t) want to necessarily turn (students) into hockey players,” Lawrence said. “I want the underrepresented communities to see the Blackhawks as a resource for them. And as someone who wants to help their communities. I think running these programs and connecting with these kids, they’re making a statement like (we’re here for you guys).” 

Lawrence said kids in the program often tell him they want to “be just like Coach Sam.” When asked to give advice to young hockey players of color, Lawrence reminds kids not to get discouraged when trying something new. 

“Stick with it and give it a chance, don’t give up,” he said. “It could be something very beneficial.”

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