Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse has signed up to be an ambassador for Free Play for Kids.
Nurse will lead fundraising events and the Captain of the Week program, where participants get a chance to watch an Oilers game, and develop the Darnell Nurse Young Leaders Scholarship. The scholarship allows those graduating high school to pursue post-secondary education.
Free Play for Kids is a free after-school program which helps get marginalized children in the city — most of them refugees, newcomers or Indigenous — involved in sports. Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies started at Free Play.
Nurse told CBC's Edmonton AM he wanted to share his love of hockey and help grow the sport among youth.
"To be able to just sit down and meet these kids and have them see what I do on a daily basis, hopefully inspire some to one day want to play in the NHL," he said.
"It's very unique and I'm very excited about this program."
Nurse's father immigrated to Canada from Trinidad and Nurse said he grew up hearing stories about how his father was treated differently. This is why, he said, he felt compelled to work with similar communities.
"So it's important to be able to give back to those communities because, like I said, I'm of a family, a really close connection to someone that has been through a lot of the same experiences," he said.
Nurse has participated in similar programs in his home town of Hamilton, but since signing an eight-year contract with the Oilers, he decided to do something here as well.
"(Free Play) obviously see a lot of the same values in sport and what it can bring to people," Nurse said. "And so it was really a no-brainer when presented with the opportunity."
Oilers alumni Joaquin Gage and Shawn Belle are also involved in Free Play hockey programming.