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Junior Islanders Take to the Ice

by Chrissy Foster / New York Islanders


Calling all 12 to 13 year olds hockey players!

The Junior Islanders will be composing a team of the best pee-wee players in Long Island to travel across the world to play hockey.

With a coaching staff of former Islanders Benoit Hogue, Bob Nystrom, Steve Webb and Bryan Trottier, the team will represent the New York Islanders in the Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope Tournament in China from December 26 through January 6. 

From there, the Junior Islanders will travel to Canada to compete in the 51st Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament from February 11 to 21. 

“It’s probably the best pee-wee tournament in the world,” Coach Nystrom said. “There are a total of about 120 teams that show up there…the competition is intense.

“The kids will love it. It’s a way they can share stories and also see how players of the same age compare to their talent levels.”

The team will join 2,300 other players from 16 different countries all fighting for the title of Pee-Wee Hockey World Champions.

“Once you go there and see some of the talented teams play, the way they move the puck and the way they skate, you wouldn’t believe they’re pee-wees,” Coach Hogue said. “The competition is great but in the end it’s the experience all about the incredible experience the kids go through.”

The program has proved to be a stepping stone for young players aiming to make it to the NHL.

Nystrom’s son Eric, who now plays for the Calgary Flames, is one of the current NHL players who also participated in the Junior Islanders growing up.

“Right after that he [Eric] just took off,” said Nystrom. “He started working a little harder and he saw where he stood as far as competition wise, where he stacked up against kids from different areas whether it be the US or Canada or Russia”

Other NHL players with their roots in the Junior Islanders include Mike Komisarek of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chris Higgins of the New York Rangers.

“We feel the alumni have a pretty good sense for talent,” said Nystrom. “We pick the best kids and hope we can help them out by telling them about our experiences and it will take them to the next level.”

The alumni have shown their continuous support since the program’s beginning in the late 1980’s.

The Junior Islanders used to be funded by alumni games alone. Now, through the helping hands of Islander’s Owner Charles Wang, the Islanders Children’s Foundation and various fundraising activities cover most expenses. 

The first round of 37 kids tried-out Wednesday, October 7 at Islander’s Ice Works.   

“Usually the youngsters are pretty nervous the first couple of practices or tryouts,” Nystrom said.  “All in all, I thought the kids did pretty well. They worked hard and that’s all we really can ask.”

“We are going to bring everybody back and give them another try,” Hogue said. “We will be able to make a decision the week after that.”

The Junior Islanders will be holding another try-out next Wednesday, October 14 at 9 p.m. at Islanders Ice Works.  To pre-register e-mail Michelle Winter at Proof of age is required. 

“The only thing I can ask of them is to go there play hard, compete, play their best and at the same time have fun,” said Hogue. “It’s been successful every year.”
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