Myron Green rummages through bags and walks gingerly around corners of the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena in Northeast Baltimore. He’s unsteady on his feet, balancing on skates that he hasn’t worn for eight months.
It’s early spring, and he is frantically searching for the one piece of equipment – a helmet – that he needs to join his teammates on the ice. It’s also Green’s last chance: Today marks the final practice of the Baltimore Banners ice hockey team’s season.
He finds a helmet tucked away at the entrance of the rink. He ties it around his chin, bounds over the wall and finds his footing on the ice.
Within minutes, Green pulls back his hockey stick and connects with the puck, sending it zooming to the back of the net.
“Like, I take my time more, more patient. Like I usually just snap, but I’m more patient now. Like I know how to take a loss. I know how to bounce back.”— Myron Green
A grin widens on his face. Cheers break out. Everyone here knows that this goal is more than a score. It is also something to celebrate – Green’s first time back on the ice since his release from a juvenile detention center.
“I see a lot of younger guys cheering me on,” Green said. “Feels good to bring joy to somebody younger than me because I want them to know that it’s not always over, like there is always another step to your life.
“You feel like you might make a mistake,” he added. “I fell off here and there. But like I want to show them there’s another way, like it ain’t always over, like you always got another story to tell.”
Green’s story reflects the mission of the Baltimore Banners, a volunteer-run team that was founded in 2003 and aims to teach on- and off-ice skills to at-risk youth in East Baltimore. The team is run by the Tender Bridge Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Noel Acton.
The team has two sets of age groups: the Junior Banners, made up of young teens, and the Banners for Life, composed of players over age 18 and alumni. They play exhibition matches against other clubs, from middle school teams to local police hockey squads.
But winning here really is about building trust. Managing emotions. Discipline. Processing trauma. Growing and sharing and working together.
Many of the players face instability at home. They’ve lost loved ones, friends and teammates. In September 2021, the Banners lost two of their own to gun violence: Davon “Peanut” Barnes, 20, and Abraham “Abe” Ludd, 22. On a rainy day, the players and coaches gathered at Patterson Park to honor them. They didn’t play that day, but they were probably the closest they had ever been as a team.
Some Banners players, including Green, might lose their way for a bit. But when Green looked for a way back home, he found a path using the goal-setting skills he’d developed with team coaches and mentors.
During a juvenile court hearing in Baltimore, he recalled, he read them aloud to the judge. He wants to become a professional boxer. He wants to attend his high school prom.
His commitments helped secure his release and his return to the Banners.
Green’s time with the Banners has made him more mature, he said. “Like, I take my time more, more patient. Like I usually just snap, but I’m more patient now. Like I know how to take a loss. I know how to bounce back.”
When he’s skating, Green said, he feels like he’s floating – “like I was home.”
The Banners’ longtime home faces an uncertain future. A wall collapsed at the Patterson Park rink this season. Safety concerns forced the Banners to move to the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena, which is about 25 minutes from East Baltimore, where many of the players live. Players now will either walk to Patterson Park or pile into a coach’s van to make a quick trip to practices or games.
Acton worries that a permanent move from East Baltimore would add one more hurdle to what is often an obstacle-filled path for his players. Also, the team stores its equipment at Patterson Park.
“The kids do not feel at home at the other rink,” Acton said. “They enjoy being on the ice, but it’s not home.”
Kevin Nash, a spokesman for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, wrote in an email that the department is waiting on repair assessments to “determine next steps for the rink.”
“We are hoping that the repairs are minor. … Reopening DiPietro Family Skating Center depends on the extent of the necessary repairs that the assessment calls for,” Nash said.
The Banners’ work and impact, however, don’t start and stop in the rink or during the season, or on the scoreboard.
Two months after Green returned to the ice, he was grabbing the last items he needed to reach another goal.
His father, Lionell Green, held out his jacket. He adjusted his bowtie. Father and son matched, both in all black with red ties.
Green was ready.
He was on his way to the prom. But first he had to greet other loved ones waiting to send him off. In the back of the crowd, holding a cellphone in the air, Banners Coach Jamal Perkins watched Green.
They cheered. Green smiled.
“Feels good to bring joy to somebody younger than me because I want them to know that it’s not always over, like there is always another step to your life.”— Myron Green