It was a day full of smiles and laughter for local youth hockey teams who gathered at Nassau Coliseum for the New York Islanders Seventh Annual Youth Hockey Jamboree. Mini-mite and mite level teams played four 15-minute games on the very same Coliseum ice their favorite team competes on.
“It’s a blast and a thrill for the kids,” Dan Greziano, head coach of the Iceworks team, said. “And (it’s a thrill) for their parents to see their kids on the NHL ice. I was telling the kids on the bench last night the Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings were out here and now you get to be on the same rink and bench as they do.”
The Jamboree featured 16 teams from Long Island and Manhattan. The players were encouraged to be good sports and send positive cheers to other teams before and after each game.
“We have a lot of great sportsmanship,” Jocelyn Cummings, Islanders manager of hockey development, said. “They all high five each other on the way out and they’re cheering each other on the way in. It’s great to get different teams out here on the big ice to see where the Islanders play.”
Sitting on the benches, many of the young players stared in amazement at the number of seats around them and absorbed the great experience of playing at a professional arena.
“It’s really not about how much ice time they’re going to get,” Bobby Amore, coach of Buckley Hockey School, said. “It’s just watching their eyes looking up at the stands and going wow, this is where dreams start right here.”
All of the players were eager to share their experiences about being on the ice, including Anthony, from Iceworks, who notched an assist in his Coliseum debut.
“It was really fast paced, everything was going so quickly,” Anthony said. “Everyone was shooting goals. It was awesome and really fun.”
The event was unique because teams had the chance to play more teams than they normally would in a single day. Natalie, a goalie for the Long Island Royals mite team, talked about her experience after posting two shutouts between the pipes.
“It’s exciting to play different teams that you don’t usually get to play,” she said. “I liked playing different teams in the same day because you wouldn’t really play four games in one day.”
For an event all about fun and sportsmanship, the score didn’t matter, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to play for. The Royals were promised post-game ice cream if they played well. After two shutouts and a few goals, they came off the ice smiling.