While the dog days of summer may have set in, things were cooling off at Northwell Health Ice Center as Matt Martin hosted his fifth-annual Hockey Academy put on by his foundation.
Roughly 180 campers partook in the week-long clinic which focused on fun, instructional, and competitive hockey development. The camp is designed to ensure participants receive plenty of one-on-one attention from coaches, including Martin. The campers are split up by age and competition levels and learn everything from the mechanics of skating, edgework, stickhandling, to proper nutrition, conditioning exercises, and stretching.
"Long Island has always been really good to me," Martin said. "Five or six years ago, I was coming up with ideas of ways to give back and this was one of the first things that we did. It started with 90 kids the first year and doubled the next year. We've been pretty steady ever since. I feel the support from Long Island and being able to give back makes me feel good."
As the camp has progressed over the years, there's been a steady number of repeat campers. For Martin, it's a nice touch to see the individual growth and development of the budding players who have continued to attend his camp.
"There's a lot of familiar faces which is nice," Martin said. "For us, we want to keep it fun and keep it refreshing for the kids and add some new things every year. They seem to have a good time. It's a fun week. They wear me out every time. We've had a lot of success with it and the support has been unbelievable. It's something I want to keep doing for a long time."
For 11-year-old Wesley Sigler, who plays for the Long Island Gulls, the camp is enriching and helpful. With sessions on ice, on the outdoor dek hockey rink and conditioning stations, the week flies by, but the takeaways are abundant.
"[Martin] keeps it really fun," Sigler said. "It goes by fast because you're moving from station-to-station and you're learning so much. Plus, you get to see Matt a lot which is really cool."
As much as Martin wants to teach at his camp, he also wants to play. It's not unusual to see him on the dek hockey court, even playing goalie if it gets him into a game.
Towards the end of the week, Martin usually has a few familiar faces from the Islanders lineup join him in coaching. It's a surprise the campers have grown to anticipate and love to guess who will make a visit. This year, Thomas Hickey grabbed a whistle and clipboard and helped orchestrate the daily sessions.
"My teammates are unbelievable with that stuff," Martin said. "They've always supported all of my charity events with that stuff. As a player, you never really want to bother guys with things, but they volunteer to stop by. Obviously, I really appreciate that from them. The kids love to see new faces and always ask me who else is coming. They enjoy seeing other NHL players. Our organization and our players do a great job of helping out as much as we can."
Proceeds from the event support Martin's foundation which aims to benefit causes close to Martin like; the NYPD Widow and Children's Fund, the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis, ACDS, and the Islanders Children's Foundation. The camp is also a precursor to Martin's annual Poker Tournament, which will be held on Sept. 5 at the Chateau Briand in Carle Place. In year's past, the majority of Martin's fellow Isles teammates join him in playing a hand in the tournament. Space is limited, but tickets are still available and can be accessed here.