Growing up on Long Island, kids are accustomed to a few things. Beaches, traffic and trains stand out, but so does hockey. Depending on when and where on the isle their parents were born, youngsters could have been raised as fans of the Islanders, Devils or Rangers. No matter what, hockey was probably a part of their lives.
For Ben Rosen and Mike Marcou, the sport exemplified everything that was their childhood. Now, it’s a part of their young adult lives, too, as the pair is taking part in Islanders Mini-Camp.
“I grew up in Syosset, so as you could imagine, hockey played a big role in my life,” said Rosen. “I skated in IceWorks and played a lot of hockey there. And my parents were hockey fans, so we went to games at the Coliseum all the time.”
Rosen and Marcou actually grew up as somewhat of rivals, playing against each other on Long Island, then in the USHL and now in the Hockey East for Boston University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, respectively. This week though, they’re playing alongside each other.
“I played against Ben when we were young here on Long Island and now up in college, so it’s a little different playing on his team,” said Marcou. “It’s fun though. It’s just a great opportunity to be here and learn a lot on the ice from the coaches and the other guys that have been here before.”
Rosen and Marcou are two of seven Long Island locals at camp this week trying to follow in the footsteps of players like Mike Komisarek, Matt Gilroy and Chris Higgins, Long Islanders that have fulfilled their NHL dreams. Hockey has always been a little more popular in the northern states of Michigan, Minnesota and throughout the northeast, but that popularity has spread greatly over the last couple decades, especially through Long Island. If not for having a professional team here, these players may not be where they are.
“Having the Coliseum and the Islanders here was a major influence when I grew up,” the 22-year-old Rosen said. “The Islanders mean so much to Long Island and it would be devastating if they left. A lot of kids may not be as interested in hockey and definitely not follow through with the sport like they would if there was still a pro team here.”
Marcou, who turns 22 next week, agreed with his sometimes rival and current teammate.
“I hope we don’t lose the Islanders or the arena,” he said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was a kid and I loved coming here to games. Now, being invited here for camp is an honor and so is playing on the ice. Kids growing up on Long Island need to have those same chances in the future.”
For now, that future is here at the Coliseum . And that same future will be on display tomorrow night in the Blue and White Scrimmage & Skills Competition, 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.