Norwegian ice hockey player Mats Zuccarello has quickly become a superstar for one of the top teams in the hockey world, the New York Rangers. Now he’s also joined the ranks of athletes setting up charitable funds to help children get involved in sports.
Zuccarello, who also has the last name of Aasen in Norway, was making headlines again this week, for what commentators called his “spectacular scoring” with an “incredible” shot into the net when the Rangers were playing against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. Zuccarello’s team ended up winning by a score of 4-2.
It was just the latest in a string of kudos the Norwegian player known in Oslo as “Zucca” has been attracting as he skates through a great season. He scored twice Monday, bringing his goals up to a hefty 23 so far this season. The Rangers themselves haven’t been doing their best for the past month, and rank second in their division at present, but Zuccarello is doing well, also on the humanitarian front.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported last month about how he’s donating a half-million kroner (around USD 60,000) to a fund aimed at helping other children from modest backgrounds, like his own was. “Not everyone has been as lucky as me, though, to have the opportunity to stick with the sport I love, and to have a mother who stood up for me throughout my whole childhood,” Zuccarello told Aftenposten.
His new foundation, called the Zuccarellostiftelsen, will support a project to help the St Hallvard Handball Club in Oslo with an effort in which players and club leaders will visit a group of children from relatively poor backgrounds in Drammen, to help them get active. The foundation will also financially support a program to give around 40 minority children from Gran School in Oslo’s Groruddalen district the opportunity to learn to ski. All the children were given skis and other equipment, and tickets to the recent Biathlon World Championships at Holmenkollen in Oslo.
Individuals, clubs and sportsteams can apply for financial support from Zuccarello’s foundation, which he said was inspired by Norwegian speed skater Johann Olav Koss’ organization “Right To Play.” Zuccarello said Koss had been “a big inspiration for me.”
He initially thought his fund would be aimed solely at children interested in his sport of ice hockey, “but we (he and manager Kevin Skabo) decided we could take it a step farther” and try to help kids get going with various sports. “I don’t have any need to market myself, but if my face and name can be used for a good cause, that’s just great,” Zuccarello told Aftenposten. Skabo will run the foundation, aided by chairman Morten Jørstad of the communications firm Geelmuyden Kiese in Oslo.
The foundation in general is unusual in Norway, where the state is expected to provide such needs through tax revenues, “but Mats has some experience after living five years in the US, where it’s much more common for athletes to engage themselves in this kind of thing.”
Zuccarello is also keen on contributing to more victories for the New York Rangers. Nine matches remain in regular play before competition begins for spots in the run-up to the league finals.