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Local athlete Art Dorrington, first black professional hockey player, dies

Local athlete Art Dorrington, first black professional hockey player, dies

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Just above the chair in Judah Dorrington’s living room was a frame with three hockey pucks in it.

Above those pucks was a framed jersey with the name DORRINGTON stitched across the back. Underneath the jersey was a trading card of Art Dorrington that read, “The Jackie Robinson of hockey.”

It was a somber Sunday morning for the daughter of the first black professional hockey player and former Atlantic City athlete.

Dorrington, who was 87, died Friday afternoon, Judah Dorrington said.

“He was a true champion. He had a major impact on this city,” said Judah Dorrington, 61, of Atlantic City.

Art Dorrington didn’t grow up in Atlantic City, but his name was synonymous with the resort. He moved to the city in 1950 to play professional ice hockey for the Eastern Hockey League’s Atlantic City Sea Gulls.

Dorrington is well known for being the first professional black hockey player when he signed a contract with the New York Rangers organization. His career was sidelined early due to a broken leg.

In his Atlantic City home, plaques and framed photos were scattered throughout the first floor — photos of Dorrington and his Johnstown Jets teammates from 1953, a team photo of Dorrington and the Sea Gulls, and countless humanitarian and community awards from over the years.

After retiring from hockey, Dorrington joined the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2012, Boardwalk Hall’s ice hockey rink was named after him.

The hockey player was also the softball commissioner in Atlantic City for 32 years and an umpire for 34 years. He created the Art Dorrington Foundation with his wife, Dorothie, in 1998. The foundation was formed to teach life skills through hockey — for every hour on the ice, they spent an hour in the classroom. The program was supported by the National Hockey League’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative in the early 1990s.

In 2015, Mayor Don Guardian officially proclaimed March 15 as Art Dorrington Day.

Atlantic City Council President Marty Small said Sunday that Dorrington was a “trailblazer” whose memory must be kept alive in Atlantic City for future generations.

“Art and I had a great relationship; I went to go see him last week one more time,” Small said. “When I was running an after school program (in the city’s school district), Art and I always made sure that hockey was part of that.”

Small also said he played in the softball league of which Dorrington was the commissioner for several summers.

Stefan Rivard was part of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies from 2001 to 2004. He said Dorrington was involved with the organization from Day 1, but remembers him more for the foundation and his involvement with city youth.

“What he did for the community is second to none,” Rivard said. “Art’s thing was always to perform in the classroom and then sports were after that.”

Still, as a member of the 2002 Kelly Cup team in Atlantic City, Rivard remembers Dorrington celebrating and dancing with the team in the locker room after playoff victories.

“He was a guy who enjoyed life,” Rivard said.

Staff Writer John DeRosier contributed to this report

Contact: 609-272-7258 Twitter @acpressmaxreil

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