Joseph makes special appearance at Penguins Willie O’Ree Academy

The Willie O’Ree Academy hosted a special guest this week: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

The 22-year-old said that he jumped at the chance to help instruct Black youth players at the camp from around the Pitsburgh area.

“I didn’t even think twice,” Joseph told the Penguins website. “I saw the videos about the Academy and I thought it was such a good idea to do something like that, especially around here. Being on the ice with these kids, the smiles on their faces, is what I came for… It meant everything to me.”

It is the first year of the Academy in Pittsburgh, which was made possible through the Penguins Foundation and DICK’s Sporting Goods.

For Joseph, it was his chance to be someone kids can look up to, the way he looked up to New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban, an All-Star for the Montreal Canadiens while Joseph was growing up.

“I always looked up to Black athletes growing up, and growing up in Montreal when P.K. was there, I was looking up to him for a while,” Joseph said. “You just see him everywhere with a smile and having fun with kids… So I hope I can be their P.K. Subban one day.”

But the Willie O’Ree Academy is more about just play on the ice.

“My goal is to make an impact on the ice, but also off the ice,” Joseph said. “I feel like it’s our job as professional athletes to just show the young kids and the next generation how everybody can reach their dream.”