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by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

Steve Webb and Eric Cairns begin the Islanders School Assembly Program, which will reach more than 15,000 children over the next four months

September doesn't just mark the beginning of NHL training camps, it's also the beginning of the school year. And while the Islanders are working as a team to win on the ice during the fall and winter months, kids all across the New York area are studying hard and working as a team while learning at school.

On Monday morning, former Islanders Eric Cairns and Steve Webb were assisted by Sparky and Ice Girl Monica as they spoke to seventh and eighth graders at East Moriches Middle School and first through fifth graders at Nathaniel Woodhull Elementary School.

It marked the first day of the Islanders Assembly Program. The new, free initiative for elementary and middle schools across Long Island is designed to help teach the importance of teamwork through a series of demonstrations and discussions by Islanders staff members. Monday's visit was the first of over two dozen stops by the Islanders between now and February. Through this program, the Islanders expect to reach more than 15,000 schoolchildren.

Webb and Cairns came into Monday's assemblies as prepared as they were when they came to the rink during their playing days with the Islanders, and the kids, along with the faculty who gave the guests their full attention.

The two players made thoughtful analogies between working as a team at school and playing hockey.

"Even though you're in a school, you're still a team," said Webb to the students. "The general manager is like the principal, the teacher is the coach, the training staff is like the nurse and the students are the players. Even though they're different situations, it's important to work together as a team. Just like the Islanders, the school wouldn't work if the parts didn't work together as a team."

The first task of the day involved one student dressing up in full hockey equipment by himself, while another received help from the speakers and classmates. Not surprisingly, the kid who was helped put on his gear faster.

Another exercise involved starting a "Let's Go Islanders" with only three kids compared to the whole school. There was no question who was louder. Webb and Cairns successfully made their points across, but also did it in an entertaining fashion.

"What a great day," said East Moriches Middle School Principal Bob MacIntyre. "To have pro athletes come to our school really inspires the kids. It's amazing how much this helps the community. The way they taught teamwork to the kids was really exciting. Not just the kids, but the staff was lit up as well."

Besides the tasks, the students of both schools watched a special video made by Islanders TV about teamwork with commentary from the current Islanders. If the students needed some extra convincing about the importance of teamwork, then they heard it straight from Rick DiPietro and the captain Bill Guerin.

But even after the presentation was finished, the kids weren't left empty-handed. The speakers brought some fun Islanders souvenirs to hand out to every student, completing a magnificent first day of the Islanders School Assembly Program.

"What a great way to start the Islanders School Assembly Program," said Webb. "It's all about making a difference, and I think this program can really do that. This was only day one. There a lot more fun days ahead."

To learn more about the Islanders School Assembly Program and how your school can get involved, please call our Community Relations department at 516.501.6700.

Check out Islanders TV all season long to see video of events like these right on your computer screen.

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