NEW YORK -- Not everyone who wants to play hockey is given the opportunity to do so because of the rising costs of equipment and skates.
In an effort to help kids sustain their interest, CCM Hockey donated more than $30,000 worth of equipment to about 100 children at the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in Brooklyn on Wednesday. The New York Islanders Sticks & Skates program also partnered, and Pat LaFontaine, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was on hand to surprise kids with the equipment, which included ball hockey and street hockey items.
"When they asked me if I wanted to help support this, it was a win-win. It has to do with the community and it has to do with the Boys & Girls Club," said LaFontaine, the vice president of hockey development and community affairs for the NHL. "It's right here in Brooklyn, where the Islanders are now.
"It was exciting for me to see their faces light up and the enthusiasm that was in the room. The kids seemed really engaged and want to learn about the sport. I thank CCM, to know that they are going to be using that equipment real soon and playing real soon, made it really special. It's an exciting gift. … The people will have an opportunity to experience the game that I've loved for so many years."
Twelve-year-old Amanda recently fell in love with hockey while at the Boys & Girls Club and was one of the most excited for the new equipment.
"The first time I went [to the rink], I didn't know how to skate at all," she said. "I started gliding. I feel overjoyed. When I went online to buy a pair of skates, it was $150. Now I get them for free and don't have to worry. Some people who want something can't actually afford it."
LaFontaine, who played 15 seasons with the Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian earlier this year, had 1,013 points (468 goals, 545 assists) in 865 NHL games.
"I've had a chance as the years have gone by [to realize] not only what the game gives you, but looking back what the game teaches you," LaFontaine said. "So much of what I do today stems from what the game of hockey gave to me. To know that these kids just get to experience the fun and joy of the game, you never know where that leads to. That's something close for me that I've had the good fortune of playing my whole life."
Roland Guevara, the vice president of community relations for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, said he was thrilled the kids will be exposed more to playing hockey, whether it's on the ice or in the gym.
"Our big goal is to make sure we increase young kids playing hockey," he said. "Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, they have been participating in a skate program, and this is really our way to give back to them. Instead of them having to go out of their way to rent or buy equipment, it's an amazing opportunity for CCM to come in and donate equipment to them. Hopefully we have the next Islanders star player right here in this room.
"The big goal behind the [Sticks & Skates program] was to increase participation of young kids in the inner city coming out to play hockey. It's an expensive sport and it's a great way to give them the chance to just play the game themselves."