The Lighthouse International Tournament, presented by Modell’s Sporting Goods, KyLinTV and Marriott is gearing up. On Wednesday, the last of the five international teams touched down in the United States, joining the teams from Nassau County, Suffolk County and New York City.
On Tuesday, the two Finnish teams from Ilves arrived, while Japan, and the two Chinese teams—Qiqihar and Harbin—landed on Wednesday.
Whether it was at JFK with the Japanese and Finnish teams, or Newark—where the Chinese teams arrived—there were smiles all around from the players, coaches and family members.
“There are a lot of people who are very excited to be a part of this program,” said Dan Bedard, the Islanders Director of Amateur Hockey Development. “It’s pretty exciting when you do a home-and-home exchange. Less than two months ago, a team from Long Island was in China and they rolled out the red carpet for us. This is a great opportunity for teams from around the world to compete against one another. It’s thrilling for each of these kids to go home and tell stories about how they played hockey against teams from other countries. There are not a lot of kids who get that experience. It’s a memory that will last forever.”
The Chinese kids arrived early Wednesday evening, some dressed in bright red jump suits, while others were more casual. This was the first time in the United States for some of the kids, while a few competed in last year’s tournament.
“I really liked playing in the Coliseum last year, it was so impressive,” said Zhao Bing Yan of Harbin. “The foreign kids were very skillful with their sticks. We tried to learn from that. By coming here we not only improve our hockey skills, we also enjoy the great scenery and hopefully make some new friends.”
While rivals on the ice, Harbin and Qiqihar sat side-by-side on the airplane, representing their nation together. Once they got off the plane, with their luggage in hand, a familiar face to some greeted them as they exited the airport—Sparky. The friendly dragon held up a sign welcoming the 40 youngsters to America.
“This is my first time in America,” said Ma Rei of Qiqihar. “No one really told me what to expect. I’m just excited to come here and play hockey. I’m also looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty.”
The teams from Harbin and Qiqihar will have the opportunity to explore New York City on Sunday, but that is after a few days of friendly, but intense competition at Iceworks and the Nassau Colieum.
While the Chinese teams were arriving, the Finnish teams made a special trip to Madison Square Garden to watch the Islanders battle the Rangers. Finnish-born Sean Bergenheim may not have scored, but the young Finns were able to witness their countryman drop the gloves with Petr Prucha.
The Chinese and Japanese teams will have the opportunity to watch the Islanders on Thursday, when all of the international players take part in the flag ceremony prior to the puck drop.
Before the Islanders take to the ice on Thursday, the Lighthouse Tournament will get underway with competition beginning at 9 am at Iceworks.
Check below for the schedule of play Schedule of PlayThursday, February 19 – Iceworks
9:00 am: Harbin vs. Nassau
10:00 am: Qiqihar vs. Ilves 2
11:00 am: Suffolk vs. Ilves 1
12:00 pm: Nassau vs. Japan
1:00 pm: NYC vs. Suffolk
3:00 pm: Japan vs. NYCThursday, February 19 – Coliseum
1:00 pm Ilves 2 vs. Harbin
2:00 pm Qiqihar vs. Ilves 1Friday, February 20 - Iceworks
9:00 am: Ilves 2 vs. Nassau
10:00 am: Ilves 1 vs. JapanFriday, February 20 – Cantiague
12:00 pm: NYC vs. Qiqihar
1:00 pm: Harbin vs. SuffolkSaturday, February 21 – Coliseum
1:00 pm: 5th Place Game
2:00 pm: 3rd Place Game
3:00 pm: Championship GameMonday, February 23 – Iceworks
9:00 am: Friendship GamesClick here
to read a preview of the Lighthouse International Tournament