NEW YORK -- Long Island native Joe Walsh enjoyed an extra special holiday treat Sunday morning as he watched his 8-year-old grandson play in the first Hockey in the Park outdoor charity game at Central Park's Lasker rink.
The game raised thousands of dollars for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"My Grandpa's house got flooded by the hurricane so it was special to help raise money for this cause," Joe's grandson, Joey Walsh, told NHL.com.
Walsh's home just had heat restored this week.
"It's been quite an experience, so for the kids to want to do this to help the victims of the hurricane, it was fantastic," Joe Walsh said. "Plus, it was a great game."
The Tier 1 mite North Jersey Avalanche faced the Long Island Royals to raise money for hurricane victims through HELP USA. (Deborah Francisco)
The game was played between the North Jersey Avalanche and the Long Island Royals, both Tier 1 mite teams with players born in 2004. The proceeds go toward the HELP USA fund for hurricane victims. CCM sponsored the event by providing sticks for all the players and plans to match the final donation total for the event. West Side Skate provided jerseys and members of the New York Rangers attended.
"It's a great day for hockey," the announcer exclaimed as the puck dropped Sunday and the area youth hockey rivals played each other for the fourth time this season -- but first in 28-degree weather in an outdoor setting -- in a game that had extra special meaning.
"All the kids were affected by the hurricane in one way or another -- whether it be as simple as they didn't have school for a week or whether they had material losses," Avalanche head coach Tom Duhamel said. "I live in Hoboken where there was $100 million of damage, the kids were affected, too, so they understand how important it was to do this."
The game came about because 8-year-old Avalanche forward Christopher John wanted to play in a Winter Classic-type game and he convinced his parents and teammates to get on board with his vision.
The idea quickly morphed into an actual event as Lasker Rink agreed to donate the ice time and CCM came on board as a sponsor.
"The hurricane was scary because people lost so much, but this was a way to help our community," John said. "I think the game went well. Everyone was so pumped up about it, so they all helped to raise money."
The Avalanche invited the Royals to participate in the event and boys from both teams went out into their communities to secure sponsors. Avalanche forward Jameson Klein raised more than $700 for the event by asking local business owners for their support. He was named the first star of the game for his two-goal effort, which he dedicated to his grandfather who passed away this year.
"It was extra special to raise money for the hurricane," Klein said. "When I went to Casa Del Sol this guy named Pete gave us $60 out of his pocket."
Klein's father, Denis, said, "For us, it was great to have the local businesses help out. …To me, hockey is about family and fun. That's what it's all about."