NEW YORK -- Members of the North Jersey Avalanche squirt minor hockey team learned how nice it is to be nice.
Players from the team, all 9 years old, were treated to a shopping spree Friday at the NHL Store Powered by Reebok in Manhattan, with special help from Philadelphia Flyers teammates Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.
The players were given the gift from the League as a reward for their charity work. Last season the team raised money to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. This season, however, they're donating to a more personal cause.
Players will donate $1 for every goal they score this season to the medical care of Tom Kurth, a friend of their coach, Johnny Hero. Kurth, 26, was diagnosed this summer with Hodgkin's lymphoma. A fan of the Flyers and New York Islanders, Kurth is being treated at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"The kids, they did that charity thing last year for Hurricane Sandy and they jumped aboard [for Kurth]," Hero said. "I mentioned it and they ran with it. The kids really rallied together. It's all them. I don't know if it's the parents, but the kids are a really good group with a good, bright future. It's good to see that the kids, even at this young age, are excited to help out for a good cause. I love it and I'm proud to be their coach. You don't see kids like that nowadays."
And according to Hero, there should be plenty of money to donate.
"We've had one tournament so far [this season] and we were the leading scoring team in the tournament," he said. "I think we had 31 goals in four games."
The players were given $700 Friday to spend however they liked at the NHL Store. Rather than buy things for themselves, though, they picked up Flyers- and Islanders-themed merchandise for Kurth. Among the items they selected was a Giroux Flyers jersey, an Islanders jersey with Kurth's name on it, a Flyers hat, Flyers and Islanders ear buds and a Flyers keychain.
"He loves the Islanders and he loves the Flyers," Christopher John, one of the Avalanche players, told NHL.com. "Those are his two favorite teams."
Giroux and Hartnell walked around the store with the young players, helped them pick out the items and then rang them up at the cash register.
The kids weren't expecting to have NHL All-Stars as their tour guides, and weren't quite sure who the two big guys in suits were that were helping them around the store -- one asked Hartnell if he was the store manager. The players were in New York as part of the League's annual Player Media Tour.
"Any time you get a chance to meet young players, kids around 10 years old, I just put myself in their shoes," Giroux told NHL.com. "I was from a small town so we didn't meet any hockey players. One time we met Eric Desjardins. I was so amazed. I was pumped to meet him. Anytime I get to meet kids like that it's always fun."
It also was impressive, as Giroux noted the players' selflessness.
"When kids step up like that, it's nice," he said. "We're in a good position to help other people. Any time we have a chance we like to do it."
As much fun as the kids had, their parents were just as excited. Nicole Redmond, whose son Colin plays on the team, said it was a good lesson for her son: that if you do good for others, others will do good for you.
"It's a great experience," she told NHL.com. "To be in the NHL Store, to be with NHL players, doing good for someone who's going through a rough patch. … Our kids have a lot, and it's nice to give to somebody who is in a moment of need."
Marisa Arcaroli, whose son Antonio is a member of the team, echoed those comments.
"It's really important that they realize they have to do something to help somebody," she told NHL.com. "They have a lot and they have to realize they have to give back, and this is a great way to give back."