In some ways, the New York Islanders are more than just a hockey team.
From Bayport to Brooklyn, the Islanders are active members of the community, doing what they can off the ice to make a difference. This season, the Islanders raised over $1M this season for community initiatives through events, fundraisers and donations to the Islanders Children's Foundation.
"It's nice to be a part of something bigger," Scott Mayfield said. "Sometimes we get entrenched in hockey and that's our life and our world, but at the same time there's more out there."
Video: Islanders Community in Review
The money raised will help a lot of people who need it, but there's a personal connection of the Islanders community work. It's seeing the awe and excitement of Brandon Bloom, an eight-year-old battling stage-4 non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma who got to be an Islander for a Day in October - taking part in the team practice, getting his own gear and a spot in the locker room. It's what it meant to his family as well.
"I almost started crying when I saw that he had his own little spot in the locker room with the boys, that really touched me," Brandon's father, Brian, said. "I can see the smile across the ice on his face."
Video: Brandon Bloom Becomes Islander for a Day
The Bloom family were just a few of the hundreds of lives the Islanders touched this season. Whether it was donating their time at the visiting kids in hospitals to hand deliver presents, dealing out cards at casino night - which raised $190K - swinging the sticks at the team's golf outing, or throwing frisbees at Anders Lee's Kancer Jam, the Islanders were actively involved all season.
Islanders fans played a huge role in raising money this year, opening their wallets as well as their hearts to raise over $100K to fund cancer research at Lee's Kancer Jam in February. Lee's second Kan Jam tournament raised more money than his first, which left the Islanders 40-goal scorer humbled while giving out a heartfelt thanks.
Video: Anders Lee Kancer Jam
"It's pretty incredible," Lee said. "The fan base, everyone who hopped on board and helped donate and all the guys, it's just a special night. To be able to raise this amount of money is incredible and to do it the second year in a row is awesome."
Some causes were highly personal to the Islanders. Lee's event was inspired by Fenov Pierre-Louis, a high schooler who has been battling neuroblastoma, while Anthony Beauvillier's support for the Alzheimer's Association stemmed from his grandparents being effected by the disease.
The Islanders expanded their community outreach this season by taking on new initiatives. The Islanders hosted their first mental health awareness night this season, with DIFD night in January. Assistant Coach Luke Richardson opened up about his family tragedy to help spur a conversation and end the stigma around mental health and the team and fans raised $44K - money that will all go towards mental health initiatives on Long Island.
"We're very adamant that not only creating awareness in that area, but any financial gain on an event, we always make sure that money stays local and works with a local mental health association or hospital and try to do things locally," Richardson said.
Video: PIT@NYI: DIFD Foundation drops ceremonial first puck
In addition, the Islanders visited firefighters, led school assemblies and taught kids about the importance of school and anti-bullying. The team hosted 27 different charities at home games through the Hockey with a Heart initiative this season, raising $180K for groups including the United Heroes League, Autism Speaks, North Shore Animal League and more.
They auctioned off warmup jerseys for Military Appreciation Night and Hockey Fights Cancer and raised money for America's VetDogs through the team's second Pucks and Paws calendar. Individually, the players hosted kids at home games and gave tours of the locker room. Johnny Boychuk bought and delivered Thanksgiving dinners to families in need while their wives and girlfriends volunteered at food banks and at Ronald McDonald house.
Whether the gesture was conducted individually or as a team, it all added up to something big - something even bigger than hockey.
MORE COMMUNITY EVENTS:
HOLIDAY HOSPITAL VISITS:
Video: Islanders Holiday Hospital Visits
Video: Islanders Casino Night 2018