Nassau Coliseum became the center of the Long Island youth hockey universe at about 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. Parents trekked from all across Long Island and from as far away as Westchester to bring their children to play in the fourth annual Islanders Jamboree.
With the ice sectioned off into three mini rinks, the sound of the PA announcer informed the crowd which of the hundreds of children were up next on the ice. Months of planning and organizing came to a glorious fruition. It could be seen on the faces of the kids as they put their first skate on the ice and on the faces of the parents who plastered themselves to the glass watching their young ones glide across the Islanders center-ice logo.
“To be here at the rink, it gives them the chance to skate on the Islanders ice and the chance to say that they they’ve skated on NHL ice before,” said Charity Collins, a team manager from the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn who was participating in the jamboree for the first time this year. “Being six and seven, it’s something they look forward to and something they may never get to do again. We even have some parents that have never been to the Coliseum and this is their first time here. It’s also great exposure for our house league kids to get exposure with all the other kids on Long Island.”
We couldn’t do this without our rink partners. They are huge supporters of this event and basically every other initiative that we do. We have a responsibly to grow the game of hockey and being the only professional sports team on Long Island, that is what we need to do. - Michelle Winter, the Manager of Amateur Hockey Development
As a part of the Islanders grassroots commitment to youth hockey in the Long Island community, the team hosts this event for house league players at the mini-mite, mite, and squirt levels. It all culminates on one day in January where the kids have the opportunity to skate on the same ice where John Tavares
scores goals and Rick DiPietro
makes heart-stopping saves.
This event is important to the hockey community for so many reasons. With 12 rinks and over 600 kids participating in the program, it shows the value of committing to and investing in the local hockey programs.
“We couldn’t do this without our rink partners,” said Michelle Winter, the Manager of Amateur Hockey Development. It’s Winter who organizes the event from the Islanders side and makes sure the event is a success. “They are huge supporters of this event and basically every other initiative that we do. We have a responsibly to grow the game of hockey and being the only professional sports team on Long Island, that is what we need to do.”
Tom Palamara, owner of the Rinx in Hauppauge, was standing at the door to the ice helping move kids on and off the ice. He is a strong supporter of the Islanders youth hockey programs. His rink had 20 teams at the event and he was more than happy to be involved in the day.
“This event is very important for two reasons,” said Palamara. “One it shows the kids that there is a professional team here that they need to support. It also has them be a part of something bigger. So when these kids go to the local rinks and they see what goes on there when they can come here and see the coliseum and see the Islanders practice it really builds the enthusiasm for hockey in general.”
Between two sessions, the big guys, the Islanders, took the ice for practice. Kids and parents lined up along the barriers where the players entered the rink calling out to each one as they walked by to sign jersey’s, shirts and even arms and foreheads.
“The Islanders organization has been great for our kids,” said Kathy Caporuscio, an Islanders season ticket holder whose son, Jaime, plays for a mini-mites team out of Iceworks. “They go so out of their way to make the kids feel welcome, to introduce the kids to the players, to help them better their hockey skills, they’re terrific.”
After the Islanders skated off and signed autographs for their young fans, the mites and squirts took the ice for their go round.
“In all the years that I have been involved with youth sports and youth hockey, I’ve never seen a better event for these little kids,” said Palamara “It’s truly a great jamboree and these kids are being exposed to so many things. It’s something they will remember the rest of their lives.”
There wasn’t a person around that isn’t looking forward to next year.
“Every year it gets a little bit better and the organization has been great and the kids are just having a good time,” said Palamara