Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope is the unprecedented, multi-faceted, education initiative that undoubtedly changes the lives of young athletes forever. It helps to spread the joys of hockey to youths in China by providing equipment, coaching clinics and building rinks.
On December 26, 2009, the Junior Islanders, accompanied by head coach and former Islander Benoit Hogue boarded a flight to China to take part in the event. Joseph Fu, is traveling with the team as an interpreter and is also sending updates about the team and what they're up to, back to islanders.nhl.com. Check out the most recent posting below:
Posting (1/5/10) -
This morning we went to the Beijing City Zoo that was set up by Mr. Ying Da. By special arrangement, we saw the panda bears and everyone had an unbelievable time. Many of us had only seen pandas on the television and none of us could believe we saw six up close. Both coaches Benny Hogue and Bernie Cassell said it was awesome that the kids can get to see them on this trip. At the zoo we also saw tigers, lions and other animals that were very special.
Posting (1/4/10) -
Today we traveled from Harbin to Beijing by plane in the afternoon. We also went to the Silk Street Market and shopped for a lot of gifts and souvenirs for friends and family. The place is famous in Beijing for tourists. Afterwards we went back to the Park Plaza Beijing West Hotel.
Posting (1/3/10) -
Today we took the train from Qiqihar to Harbin. In the afternoon we walked around the famous Central Street. There were a lot of Russian style buildings and shops. At night we went to the 11th annual Harbin Ice and Snow World. The temperature was around -20 Fahrenheit. All the kids had a blast and many of them were in disbelief of the ice sculptures that they witnessed. World famous structures in smaller scale were built by either ice or snow for the Harbin Ice and Snow World festival this year. They had the great Wall of China and giant slides on the side. it was really fun. one can really generate some speed going down the slides. We all had to keep moving in order not to get too cold.
Posting (1/2/10) -
This morning Coaches Benoit Hogue, Bernie Cassell and translator Joseph Fu went to Qiqihar winter sport arena and put everything we they taught the coaches in the classroom, onto the ice. Participants were the Qiqihar coaches and 40 or more Qiqihar player from various age groups. After an hour and a half on the ice with Bernie and Benoit, the kids were exhausted, but everyone involved said it was tremendously helpful as they can put this in their daily routine practice.
The U.S. kids went to visit another Project Hope school and met students, athletes and teachers there. They welcomed us with open arms and our parents loved seeing the U.S. kids and the Chinese kids play together when they don't even speak the same language. At the Project Hope school, the students have their own rink and many of the U.S. kids said they wish they have an outdoor rink in their school yard.
In the afternoon, we had our last game of the tournament against Harbin and the trophy ceremony. The U.S. defeated Harbin 11-2 as they became champions of the tournament. The U.S. kids led by Coach Hogue and Coach Cassell were very humble as they explained to them how this is a friendship tournament instead of countries vs. countries.
Tonight back at the hotel we had our farewell banquet. Attendees were the event organizers, Harbin and Qiqihar sports bureau and all the parents plus the teams from the U.S.
The U.S. kids gave a speech during the opening part of the ceremony:
"On behalf of the Junior Islanders, we would like to thank Mr. Charles B. Wang and Mr. Wang Jinyu for making this entire China trip possible. It has been an amazing experience that we will always remember. We would also like to thank the Qiqihar sports bureau for organizing all the games and tournaments. Lastly we want to thank all the hockey teams for their warm welcome to China.
We appreciate all your hospitality. We feel very lucky to have been able to participate in this wonderful program that has brought the United States and China together.
We have enjoyed meeting all the children and staff from the Project Hope schools. It was very interesting and cool. It was very nice of the children to bring us gifts. We hope the Project Hope program will continue to benefit future players from both China and the U.S. and that our special hockey bond will continue to grow!"
Posting (1/1/10) -
Today in the morning after breakfast, the parents and players went to visit one of the project hope schools named Er Ma Lu primary school. This school has a hockey program that is draped in history, dating back 60 years. The school itself celebrated their 100th year anniversary last year.
Coaches Benoit Hogue, Bernie Cassell and translator Joseph Fu went to present a seminar at the rink for around 30 coaches from Qiqihar, Harbin and Jiamusi. The New York Islanders figured the next step in Project Hope is to give the China coaches the skills to teach their players how to become the best hockey players possible, no matter if it's the fundamentals of skating, puck handling, passing or receiving. Coach Bernie Cassell came equipped with his skills DVD that breaks down every skill from skating, stick-handling and shooting. After the video we went over a lot of game systems (X's and O's). Each coach was extremely interested in what they were watching, taking down notes and some of them even took out video cameras on their desks to record us. They said the entire seminar was very helpful and the skills that they learned from the Islander coaches, they’ll bring back to their teams.
After lunch at the hotel, everyone was back at the rink to play our second game of the tournament. We were playing against Jiamusi and the U.S. won 21-1. As the game began to get out of hand on the score-board, Coach Hogue and Cassell knew that it was important to teach good sportsmanship by working on their skills and treating their opponent with respect. After all, having respect and good sportsmanship is just as important as knowing how to score goals.
After the game the team went to a local mall to walk around. The mall also had a supermarket in the basement, most of the parents stocked up on snacks and daily household products that we are familiar with, as we desperately needed. The team then went back to the hotel for dinner and we also celebrated one of our players Steven Ruggerio's 13th birthday.
Posting (12/31/09) -
Today after breakfast at the hotel we went to the rink and had the Opening Ceremony. The four teams in the tournament, U.S. Jr. islanders, Qiqihar, Harbin and Jiamusi were all on hand and they brought their fans as the crowd was packed. The U.S. had a strong game, winning 13-2. Coaches Benny Hogue and Bernie Cassell were both very pleased by the performance of the U.S. team, but made sure to constantly teach the kids after the score got out of hand. For everyone who's involved in hockey, I think we all should have the attitude that we can never finish learning.
After the game everyone went to a KFC in Qiqihar so the kids can have some American junk food as a reward for winning and having great sportsmanship. I think this is the first time coach Hogue had KFC in his life.
After lunch we went to Zhalong Nature reserve in Qiqihar. This is an 840 square mile marsh reserve serves as a stopover and nesting area for a large number of storks, swans, herons and other species. The most famous is the red-crowned cranes at the reserve. The reserve let loose 31 cranes right in front of our eyes and they expanded their wings and took off. It was awesome. Some kids had close encounters with the cranes after they landed and before they went back to their cage. Although it was negative 25 Fahrenheit, we all had an amazing time.
Tonight we had the New Years Eve party at the hotel banquet hall. There were performances from 15 out of 28 Project Hope schools. There was a lot of singing and dancing. Even the American kids on the team had to do a skit, they sang twinkle twinkle little star in Mandarin Chinese for the crowd. All the Chinese guests were very surprised. The American parents had a great laugh.
Posting (12/30/09) -
Today after breakfast we took a flight that was one hour and 40 minutes to Qiqihar, China. Once we got out of the plane, we immediately felt how cold it is here, which is about -20 Fahreheit outside. We took the bus and went to the rink and dropped off the equipment and visited the facility following our staff of the NYI Harbin Office led by Mr. Wang, Jin Yu.
After the rink we went to the hotel and checked in. Everyone had to settle in and get ready for the welcome banquet for the Charles B. Wang International Tournament. The welcome banquet started at 6 p.m. and many different officials from the Chinese government and Sports Bureau were there. One of the many schools fro the Project Hope Program did a wonderful performance for us. They sang the song "You and Me" from the 2008 Olympics and had the girls from the crane dance for us. The welcome banquet was great because for many of us, it was a reunion of the hockey world from two different parts of the globe. We were able to reconnect with many of the teams and players that we originally met on Long Island for the Lighthouse Tournament in previous years. Tomorrow the tournament will begin. Lets Go Jr. Islanders!!!
Posting (12/29/09) -
Today after the breakfast buffet in the morning at the hotel, we went to the Olympic venue in Beijing, we got to the bird's nest and found out that they turned it into a ski and snow sport park with lots of other mini games in it. The kids were shocked. Immediately they went snow tubing with President Dey. Afterwards they were into a snow maze and human foosball stadium.
For lunch we went to a Dai Tribe theme restaurant near the bird's nest. After lunch the kids went on stage and did the peacock dance with the dancing ladies and all the parents and Chinese people that were eating there had a great laugh. Such clowns.
After lunch we went to the "Hokay Ice Center" and played a friendship game against Team hope from Beijing. The game was intense with several players delivering big body checks. Jr. Islanders' defenseman Eric Friedlander (#45) was all over the ice laying big checks on opposing players. The final score was 4-1, but the that did not reflect that game as the score was 2-1 going into the 3rd period. Team hope added 2 empty net goals in the last 1:30 to earn the win.
After the game we took a 2.5 hour bus ride to Rudy Ying's mansion (one of our members we met up with in Beijing, his dad is a famous entertainer here), we had buffet again, both pizza and chinese food. After dinner, we went up to the roof of the mansion and watched a fireworks show that was set up by Mr. Ying.
Posting (12/28/09) -
Today after breakfast in the morning we took a bus ride to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is in the Beijing area. The kids had a great time walking up some of the very steep and challenging parts of the Great Wall. However, they said going down was actually tougher because of how steep it was. After the visiting the Great Wall we went to have a pizza lunch buffet. From the experience last year we figure it is better not to have kids on a constant Chinese food diet because it is easier on their body.
After the trip the kids went back to the hotel and rest until 3:30 in the afternoon to go to the Chinese Capital Training Center to have a exhibition game with the Project Hope group team from Beijing. The score was 9-1 in favor of the Junior Islanders.
After the game, both teams did a power skating/puck handling clinic led by former Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ assistant coach Bernie Cassell and Islander alum, Benoit Hogue. The kids actually said the power skating clinic was tougher and more tiring than the game.
After we went to eat beking duck for dinner. The kids had a great time.