Less than 12 hours after the Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-2 shootout victory, the Nassau Coliseum was once again packed with excited little hockey players and their parents. Every season, the Islanders host the Lighthouse Jamboree where youth hockey players from all over Long Island come to skate on the Coliseum ice.
The Lighthouse Jamboree was an all day affair that started with the morning session beginning at 7 a.m. and lasting until 10:30 a.m. and then an afternoon session starting at 1:30 p.m. Breaking up the sessions was the Islanders practice that was open to the public to view.
The ice was divided into three sheets by large cushioned barriers, where from 7-10:30 a.m., thirty-six teams rotated on and off the ice every ten minutes. The mini mites were the first group to drop the puck on the Jamboree and were followed by the mites later in the morning session. As one group of future 'NHLers' stepped off the ice at the visitor entrance, another group was jumping on yelling, “This is awesome!”
“This is our third year, it has gotten bigger and bigger every single year,” Manager of Amateur Hockey Development Michelle Winter said. “Its awesome, the fact that the program has really grown each year is terrific. It’s great to have all of the local rinks supporting youth hockey.”
“Seeing the mini-mites on the ice is the funniest part of the day, because they are so little,” Winter said. They can barely move around in their equipment but it’s nice because it introduces them to hockey.”
Not only were there fist pumps and goal celebrations, but there were also pigtails flowing on the ice. The Lady Islanders had a team made up of girls between the ages of 8-10 and took part in the Jamboree for the first time in their team history.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Jamboree as the first all girls team,” Lady Islanders Director of Operations Zoe Schwan said. “The girls are not fazed at all playing against boys. They actually enjoy it more because its always fun for a girl to beat a boy. This was an event for The Lady Islanders to show who they are and to get other girl hockey players to see what they are about.”
Joe Trimarchi, Director of Nassau County House League Hockey said that Nassau County has been part of the Light House Jamboree since Steve Webb got the program off the ground several years ago. The thrill of skating on the same ice that Islander stars Kyle Okposo
and John Tavares
skate on, brings them back every year.
“I commend the Islanders for their vision in skill development for young hockey players. As a member of the USA Hockey cross ice development program, I cannot say enough about it.” Trimarchi said.
At 10:30 when the mites came off the ice, it was time to prepare to watch the Islanders open practice at 11 a.m. Everyone lined the way at the Islanders’ home tunnel and got to see each player take the ice.
“It’s just an amazing feeling just to see how happy and how excited the kids are, I had one kid say to me, ‘this is the best day of my life’ and that makes it all worth-wile.”