Many of the Islanders prospects attending mini-camp this week are getting their first look at Long Island. The players went to Huntington for a fishing trip on Monday, tonight they’ll see a Mets game at Citi Field and Sunday they hit the beach, but some of the players got to know Long Island well before mini-camp.
Danny Linell, K.J. Tiefenwerth and Dan O’Donoghue are all native Long Islanders experiencing their first NHL mini-camp this week. Practicing on a professional level for the first time can be nerve-racking for a young adult, but when Tiefenwerth received his invitation to camp, he was excited to see familiar names that would be attending camp as well.
|KJ Tiefenwerth about to take the ice at Nassau Coliseum for Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. |
“I grew up playing against Danny (Linell),” Tiefenwerth, a Bellmore native said. “He was never on my team, but always one of the best players on the team we played against. I saw the roster of people who got invited and it was good to see a name I knew.”
Linell and Tiefenwerth are both committed to play at Boston College next year and have been playing on the same line all week at mini-camp. The two are sure to be seeing a lot of each other in the near future, but for Tiefenwerth, seeing his old pal O’Donoghue has been one of the highlights of his week.
“I grew up playing roller hockey with him (O’Donoghue) when we were eight,” Tiefenwerth said. “I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, so we’ve been hanging out a lot lately.”
Linell, a Great Neck native, said he had some butterflies in his stomach before camp started Monday, but once he arrived at the Coliseum, he almost instantly felt better.
“Coming in I was a bit nervous since this is my first mini-camp, but the guys and the staff around here make you feel real comfortable,” Linell said. “I know a few of the guys from Long Island, here so it’s been a really good experience.”
The way the practices have run this week are slightly different than what many of the players are used to. O’Donoghue hails from Port Jefferson Station and is getting his first taste of what it takes to a professional hockey player this week, but it’s an adjustment he is eager to learn.
“The practices have been pretty tough, high-tempo and high-paced,” O’Donoghue said. “It’s been good to get back on the ice. Everyone here is really talented so it’s good competing with this level of play. It’s been tough, but at the same time really fun.”
All three players will be playing on the White Team at Saturday’s Blue and White Scrimmage & Skills Competition. O’Donoghue will be playing on a line with fellow Long Islanders Ben Rosen and Stephen Alonge and he will have supporters in the crowd tomorrow who are almost as excited about the game as he is.
|Dan O'Donoghue about to take the ice at Nassau Coliseum for Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. |
“It’s a family thing,” he said “They’ve been there for me the whole way, so it pays off for them too. It’s good to see them excited about something like this.
Linell is also expecting a large cheering section for Saturday’s game.
“I know they’re really excited to come watch the scrimmage on Saturday night, so it’s like a dream come true for them as well as it is for me,” Linell said.
Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said the players’ parents in attendance tomorrow night are a major reason why their sons were invited to camp.
“It’s a tribute to their parents that dedicated themselves going to the rink very early in the morning and taking their kids to practice, to their youth hockey coaches, to their high school coaches,” Capuano said. “For the kids that are here, obviously this is a thrill for them to be able to come to the Coliseum and play with our guys.”
Tiefenwerth is excited to play in front of the hometown crowd on Saturday and is glad he’s attending his first professional mini-camp so close to home – his parents are too.
“They (parents) were excited when I got invited especially because it was the Islanders and they can come watch the game on Saturday,” he said. “They told me to go out and have fun with it and don’t be too nervous.”
Along with Linell, Tiefenwerth and O’Donoghue, there are four additional Long Island natives attending camp this week. Capuano is excited to see them in action in front of a big crowd on Saturday.
“I think tomorrow (Saturday) night will be a thrill to get their name on the back of their jersey and play with some of those kids and hopefully play for a good crowd tomorrow night,” Capuano said.
Playing in the Coliseum is sure to be a thrill, but in a few years, that may not be possible. Linell, Tiefenwerth and O’Donoghue have all attended Islanders games at the Coliseum in the past and now have skated on the historic ice, so they are very aware of the need for a new arena on Long Island.
“I think it’s one of those things that the people around the island would really cling to,” Linell said. “It would really start a new trend and a new image of Islanders hockey.”
O’Donoghue feels the same way.
“This building has a lot of history to it, but at the same time, it’s pretty old,” he said. “I feel that Long Island is a great place to live and a great place to grow up. If they get a new building here it would be unbelievable for the fans and players.”
Not only is Tiefenwerth a Nassau Country resident, Islanders fan and mini-camp attendee, but his parents own the Pines Ridge Motel located three miles away from Nassau Coliseum. He said a new arena would be great for their business.
|Danny Linell skating at Nassau Coliseum during an on-ice session of Islanders Mini-Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. |
“A new arena will be great for the Islanders organization as well as the businesses around here,” Tiefenwerth said. “My family owns a motel business, so I know it will help them. They’re right down the road.”
All three players’ families will not have to travel far for Saturday’s game, which will mark the conclusion of mini-camp. For this trio, it will be an experience they will never forget.
“I’m expecting a fun game, pretty high-tempo, but at the same time a lot of fun and a good atmosphere here at the Coliseum,” O’Donoghue said.
Sounds like the fans have something to look forward to.