Josh Bailey made Brady Koehler's year on Thursday afternoon.
Bailey and Koehler were skating around Northwell Health Ice Center as part of the team's skate with visually-impaired kids from The New York Institute of Special Education and Third Eye Insight. But after the skate, Bailey, who became a parent before the start of training camp, went into the Islanders' lockerroom, grabbed a pair of sticks and came back out onto the ice for a one-on-one session with the 13-year-old.
"This is everything, the big moment, so to speak," his mom, Monique Koehler said. "He's a huge Islanders' fan, loves hockey and his vision has made life a little harder for him, so for that to turn into a really exciting big day is a nice turnabout."
They dished the puck back and forth for about 15 minutes before Bailey sent Koehler home with a pair of sticks, a jersey signed by the whole team and memories to last a lifetime. Brady was beaming and his mom said it was like Christmas had come early. Thursday afternoon was a better gift than anything that fits under the tree.
"It's huge," Koehler said. "Just for him to feel special and excited and empowered, what more could you want for your kid."
Brady is visually-impaired and has trouble with movement, so just passing back and forth with Bailey takes his full concentration. His vision has affected him his whole life, but it's never affected his love for the Islanders or hockey. He plays in a rec league in Dix Hills and, while he has to put his bean bag chair pretty close to the TV to watch a game, Thursday, he was closer to it than he'd ever been before.
"I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Brady said. "It's a dream come true to meet Josh Bailey and the rest of the Islanders in person."
Brady and Bailey weren't alone, as all the kids at Thursday's skate had their own unique experiences. Grace Schaffer got to skate with hand-in-hand with Johnny Boychuk, while Aliah Scoma, one of the youngest and smallest skaters, opted to stay in the arms of Anthony Beauvillier.
The kids were all smiles on the ice and it spread off the ice, with parents eagerly pressed up against the glass, taking pictures and reveling in their kid's joy. For some of them, this was a day they never thought possible.
"Grace is beyond happy," her father John said. "I can just see a glow that's unbelievable. Her father is happy too."
It made an impact on the Islanders as well, who were touched by the kids perseverance and experience. They do a lot of work for children in the community, but this was a new experience and a new group of kids to impact.
"This is probably the coolest thing we've ever done," Thomas Hickey said. "It's something we do every day and you take for granted, but it's a privilege to play hockey every day like we do. When people think it's cool and a privilege for themselves to be on the ice, it puts it in perspective. It's fun to share it with other people."
The Islanders made a genuine connection with the kids on Thursday. Bailey's decision to get the sticks off the rack was to extend his time with Brady and really take a spectacular day and put it over the top.
"It's been great. In terms of hanging out with Brady, he's a really good guy, we instantly became friends," Bailey said.