The New York Islanders asked Long Island residents to step up and support their neighbors affected by Hurricane Sandy. They got a big response Monday at Nassau Coliseum.
More than 2,000 people visited the Coliseum to donate clothing, non-perishable food items and money to benefit hurricane victims in the Long Island area. The American Red Cross and Island Harvest were stationed in the Coliseum lobby, accepting contributions. To thank those who came out to support the effort, the Islanders hosted free public skating sessions with team coaches and staff, along with free skate rentals for participants and a variety of games set up around the edges of the rink.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano spent several hour-long sessions interacting with attendees on the ice. He said the atmosphere around the rink was positive -- a good sign given the unfortunate circumstances that have left thousands of Long Island residents without power more than two weeks after the storm hit.
"It's great any time that our organization can do something like this," Capuano told the Islanders' website. "It's a relief for the people affected. A lot of them have been through so much, and for them to get away from the recovery efforts that they've made, to get out here and socialize and skate around, it's a good feeling. You can see it in their eyes."
Doug Weight, an Islanders assistant coach, senior adviser to the general manager and year-round Long Islander, was also on the ice with fans.
"Days like today show that people in all corners of the United States are strong people, and they come together in times like this," Weight said. "This is a major part of a lot of people's lives that we see every day. We're among friends and family here, and it's been a great turnout."
As Long Island continues to rebuild, Weight described the uplifting mood of the event and what he thought it meant in terms of the next step for Long Islanders.
"There's a lot of areas that were decimated," Weight said. "It's sad, but we'll get through it and come together. They say adversity makes you stronger. We've had some adverse conditions here. Hopefully everybody gets their lives back to normal."