From December 26 through January 6, a youth hockey team from Nassau County and their families, along with a contingent of Islanders executives, will embark on the journey of a lifetime—to the inaugural Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope Tournament in Harbin, China.
Chares B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope is the unprecedented, multi-faceted, education initiative that undoubtedly changes the lives of young athletes forever. It helps to spread the joys of hockey to youths in China by providing equipment, coaching clinics and building rinks.
The tournament will consist of five teams: three from China––Jiamusi, Harbin and Qiqihar––Ilves from Finland and the Mustangs of the Nassau County Hockey League. The Mustangs, who will be known as Team USA, are coached by Bill Nimmo and will also be represented by Nassau County Hockey Director Mark Lamarr.
The Mustangs earned the right to represent the United States by taking part in the Islanders Pucks Into Bucks fundraising program, which allows the Islanders to support various organizations through the sale of Islanders game tickets. The Mustangs raised $78,720 by selling those tickets.
"The boys are extremely excited to go," said Lamarr. "The kids and parents set out to accomplish a goal, which they ultimately achieved. They went above and beyond and the response was overwhelming. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids to play hockey over in China."
Joining the Mustangs on the trip will be Hall of Famer and Islanders Executive Director of Player Development Bryan Trottier, Islanders Director of Amateur Hockey Development Dan Bedard and Islanders representative Joseph Fu. All three men will be involved in running clinics for participating teams in the tournament and other Chinese youth hockey teams, as well as their coaches.
“I received a wonderful invitation from Charles and (Islanders President) Chris Dey to be part of this and I jumped at the chance,” said Trottier. “It's an exciting opportunity to not only share the experience with the group from Long Island, but share the gift of hockey with another country. I think we're doing a great service promoting the sport of hockey and sharing our fantastic cultures.”
The tournament will have a round-robin format, during which each team will face the other four teams once. At the end of the 16 games, a winner will be named based on best overall record. Between games, each team will have two or three practices scheduled at the main venue––Baqu Arena.
“Anytime you get a group of kids from North America involved in an international exchange, be it a school trip or a sporting experience, it is always a winning combination,” said Bedard. “Out of common courtesy of a home-and-home series, the Chinese kids have had such a good time on Long Island that they want to return the favor to show their culture and way of life. They want to share their experience of a day in the life of hockey. The Long Island kids are excited and fired up to not only play but explore and see a whole new world. This is a great exchange program offered by the New York Islanders.”
Following the tournament, the Mustangs will travel from Harbin to Beijing for three days of sightseeing, completing the cultural exchange. The trip is completely free for the Mustangs through the generous donations provided by the Islanders Children's Foundation.
The entire journey will be documented by IslandersTV, and live blogs will be posted on newyorkislanders.com each day so that all fans can stay updated on the tournament.
“This is such an unbelievable opportunity for the young players and their families who will be making the trip, and we want to make sure that all of the fantastic details get chronicled,” said Islanders Vice President of Communications Josh Bernstein, who also will be traveling to China. “In addition to posting the live blog on the Islanders Web site—which will have commentary from various people in our group—we will be shooting video so that fans back home can share in the experience. The Charles B. Wang Project Hope Tournament is a giant step forward in an already tremendous initiative and we want to be able to share it with everyone.” Teams can sign up now for their chance to earn the right to go to China next season by selling tickets for the March 8 game. For more information on the Islanders Pucks Into Bucks fundraising program, please contact Islanders Group Sales Director Adam Jacobs at email@example.com
to find out more about Project Hope, and to read a recap of last year's Lighthouse Tournament.Click here
to see highlights from last season's Lighthouse Tournament.PHOTO GALLERIES: