When drivers head 60 miles east from Nassau Coliseum, they end up at the final exit on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) – no. 73, Riverhead. Many dedicated fans from that part of Long Island make the hour-plus drive to Islanders games during the season, but the offseason can make it tough for this part of the fan base to get a taste of hockey.
The local high school doesn’t have an ice hockey team and the nearest rink is 25 miles away in Greenport, but that’s only open seasonally. Over the weekend though, professional hockey came to the beautiful North Shore town known for their baseball and grand shopping outlets.
On Sunday, May 1, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Mylec and the New York Islanders helped turn Stotzky Memorial Park into a young hockey player’s paradise. Islanders star winger Matt Moulson
trekked out to one of Suffolk County’s hidden gems to play some games and teach the basics to children aged 5-15.
“We’re trying to get these kids really interested and involved in hockey in this area,” Moulson said. “This is only the first step. Eventually we want to build the game so that this is something they want to do and will want to be a part of for a long time.”
The 40 Riverhead locals that attended the clinic ran around the outdoor court, sticks in hand, as they went over drills Moulson and the Mylec coaches taught. Out of breath from a series of drills, the young players still enjoyed a full-court scrimmage to culminate the day.
“This is something I love doing, playing ball hockey and talking to kids,” Moulson said. “I think maybe it has a much deeper impact than I even realize. It feels good to come out here and put a smile on the kids’ faces and spend some time with them, which is a pretty easy thing to do.”
Moulson wasn’t the only special athlete-guest playing puck with the kids. Bobby Jackson, a former star cornerback for the New York Jets, is now a community representative for Modell’s Sporting Goods on Long Island and showed some of his puck prowess on the playground.
“This was a beautiful day,” Jackson said. “It’s great to get the kids out here, running around and having fun. And Matt’s great, we couldn’t have had a better guy out here working with the kids.”
It may have been 60 miles on the odometer, but in the long run, this clinic is one of those special events that can’t be measured.
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