Young hockey enthusiast got to meet a hockey pro at youth hockey clinics, June 14, at Cleland Ice Rink.

Eric Staal, captain of National Hockey Leagues’s Carolina Hurricanes, met players and their Families at Fort Bragg’s rink for a day of fun on the ice.

Staal, who plays center with the Hurricanes, said it was an honor to come to Fort Bragg and meet some of the people in the military.

He had a message for the youth —“Have fun and work hard,” said Staal. “Enjoy being on the ice and working hard and those things will take you a long way.”

Ben Hyde, 11, plays defense with the Jr. FireAntz, a Cape Fear Youth Hockey Association team who practices and plays at Cleland. He seems to enjoy the game.

“It’s fast and it’s fun, and I get to play during the summer,” Hyde said, adding that it was “cool” to meet Staal.

The Hurricanes partnered with Defending the Blue Line and the CFYHA to help keep Fort Bragg’s rink open with a $10,000 donation from their Kids ‘N Community Foundation.

DTBL, according to its website, ensures that the children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in hockey.

Cleland had previously been scheduled to close for a few months due to sequestration, but now will remain open with increased fees.

The partnership’s outreach helps the growth of the youth hockey program on Fort Bragg, said Michael Parrent, Cleland facilities manager.

The rink, according to the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website, is the only year-round ice rink within a 60-mile radius.

It has become a beacon for those seeking hockey activities.

“We actually moved to north Fayetteville so we could be closer to here because my son loved it so much we wanted to make it easier,” said Michele Hurley, a former resident of nearby Hoke County, N.C., and mother of Matthew, 7, a CFYHA player. “It’s hard to find what they (youth) like, and when you do, you want to be able to support it.”

The clinics, led by Shane Harris, a former Hurricanes forward and current Hurricanes youth and amateur hockey coordinator, provided an opportunity for youth to learn the basic skills of hockey such as shooting, passing and skating, said Bill Wert, the Jr. FireAntz coaching director. It allows them to see the values that NHL players hold as professionals.

The CFYHA is a non-profit organization for youth to participate in travel hockey programs. For more information, visit www.cfyha.org.

For more information about the Carolina Hurricanes, visit www.CarolinaHurricanes.com or call 1-866-NHL-CANES.

For more information about Cleland Ice Rink, visit www.fortbraggmwr.com or call 396-5127.