The Lighthouse International Tournament features eight teams from four different countries. Each of the eight teams—Qiqihar and Harbin from China, Ilves from Finland and Team Finland, Team Japan, Team Nassau, Team Suffolk and Team New York City—played two games on Thursday in a round-robin format. The third and final game of the round-robin for each team will take place on Friday, with the medal round scheduled for Saturday at the Coliseum.
Following Thursday's action, Qiqihar, Nassau and New York City are 2-0 with Harbin and Ilves at 1-1. The Chinese teams were noticeably improved from the previous year.
"It was a very exciting and fun first day," said Islanders Director of Amateur Hockey Development Dan Bedard. "There were a lot of great compliments passed by the Chinese athletes about what a great improvement they've made in their skating, puck-handling and shooting. Obviously the coaches are doing a fantastic job. The Finnish team chose to create two teams, showing their growth in youth hockey. Team Japan has been a fantastic addition to the tournament. They have great speed and teamwork and the passing is phenomenal. Our local teams are a great addition as well. This is the first year we have two teams from Long Island and a team from New York City, representing the Greater New York area. The Suffolk team is representing the Rinx and Nassau has players out of Cantiague Park. Everybody is having a fantastic week of international competition."
Most importantly, the players from each team have been developing relationships with kids from the other countries. While there is certainly a language barrier, the kids broke have communicated using hand gestures and the help of translators.
Despite competing against one another on the ice, members of all eight teams came together to take part in Thursday night's flag ceremony prior to the Islanders-Carolina game. It was an event they'll never forget.
"While hockey is the focus of this tournament, it's the interactions they have with all of the teams from the other countries that they'll take with them," said Bedard. "They won't remember the scores of the games, but the new friendships they made."
The Lighthouse International Tournament has garnered plenty of attention locally, as well as in Japan and China. NY1 News interviewed the New York City team at practice this morning.
"The kids had a really exciting time doing the interviews before they even got to the ice rink," said Bedard. "We've had a lot of media from China and Japan and the local media, so kids get a first-hand view of what international competition is."
The Islanders hosted a special press conference for local Chinese media members. The press conference featured Islanders President Chris Dey, General Manager Garth Snow and Wang Jinyu from the Islanders office in China.
"When we began Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope there were only three cities with a very limited number of teams and rinks for ice hockey," Dey said to members of the Chinese media. "Now, four years later, thanks to the hard work of the New York Islanders office in China, led by my friend Mr. Wang Jinyu, the support of the China Ice Hockey Association, the China Sports Bureau and the local government officials, there are nearly 1,000 players—boys and girls—from Charles B. Wang Project Hope Schools in four provinces: Heilongjiang, Jilin, Beijing and Inner Mongolia."
The Lighthouse Tournament continues Friday morning with games being held at Islanders Iceworks and Cantiague Park in Hicksville. Plus, a special skills competition will be held for the Chinese, Finnish and Japanese teams. In the evening, the five international teams will go to the New Jersey Nets game held at the Izod Center in New Jersey. Click here
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