On the ice, the New York Islanders have already made some noise in the Eastern Conference during their inaugural season in Brooklyn. To top it off, they’re impacting young hockey players in Sunset Park.
On Tuesday, November 17, CityParks Street Hockey held a clinic presented by the Islanders at Sunset Park Recreation Center for youngsters that have been a part of the league over the past two months.
During the event, kids received the team’s new black jerseys, three tickets each to a future Islanders game at Barclays Center and a chance to talk to and get professional hockey tips from the team’s defensemen, Nick Leddy.
“We’re committed since the Islanders have come to Brooklyn to teach the sport of hockey to some kids who have never played the sport before and never had the chance to participate or see it live,” said Barclays Center COO Fred Mangione. “This has been going on for a couple of months so the program is culminating today with Nick Leddy coming out to show the kids some one-on-one drills and give them an experience that they’ll remember for a lifetime.”
After Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark gave the kids the good news about their gifts, they broke into groups to work on their skills with Leddy, who was more than happy to answers questions and give tips.
“I started when I was three-years-old. Just keep practicing. The main thing is always have fun,” said Leddy, who showed the kids how to score and goal and even played a little goalie. “It’s good to give back to the community, especially watching kids learn a sport they love to play.”
Parents were thrilled to see their children mingle with the hockey star.
“I’ve been a 30-year fan and my son is 10 and he’s a giant fan too and he’s a special needs child and this means so much to us,” said parent Lori Sebastiano about her son, Frankie. “He watches every single game. We go to the games together. He knows every player and where they are all from. He studies them. This is something very special that we will remember for the rest of our lives.”
During the drills, Borough President Eric Adams showed up to applaud the kids for learning the sport and staying healthy. “We were so happy to team up with Brett Yormark and find a way to expose people to the sport and he really jumped at the idea of giving out free tickets, getting young people into the stands and letting them know that they have an opportunity to enjoy the sport,” Adams said. “They are learning the power of diversity and exercise and being healthy.”
“It’s just a great opportunity to partner with the Islanders and introduce really what is a new sport for most of the kids,” said Michael Silverman, director of sports for City Parks Foundation. “Virtually all of these kids have never touched a hockey stick before. It’s another fun opportunity to keep kids active in a park and that’s what we’re all about.”