International teams from Japan, China and Finland helped make the 2014 Lighthouse International Youth Hockey Tournament a success both on and off the ice.
The tournament, now in its sixth year, allowed youth teams from all over the world to converge on the iconic ice at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Teams from Europe and Asia, as well as local teams from New York, submerged themselves in different cultures and made long-lasting friendships.
“When you see the kids react to being in an NHL arena for the first time, it warms your heart,” said Jocelyne Cummings, manager of amateur hockey development for the New York Islanders.
After three full days of round-robin and playoff hockey, two teams from Finland skated away with the gold and silver medals for the second year in a row. A Chinese team from Harbin won bronze, completing a medal sweep for the international teams.
The three New York teams, two from Long Island and one from Westchester, relished the unique opportunity to play on the same professional ice as the Islanders and make international bonds through hockey. Danny Weight, son of Islanders Assistant Coach Doug Weight, led all American players in scoring with seven points (five goals, two assists).
The action-packed week didn’t stop when the players stepped off the ice. The teams were special guests at Islanders practices. They also got a chance to meet their professional hockey idols and get autographs.
Just as the kids were given the chance to learn from the pros, the pros got a chance to do some learning as well. Islanders’ defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky gave lessons on chipping the puck in exchange for some help learning a few Mandarin words.
For many of the international players, this was their first time in the United States. Between games, many took a tours of New York landmarks. They skated at Rockefeller Center, visited the world-renowned NHL Store, and made a stop over in Brooklyn to see the Brooklyn Nets.
“None of the international players had been to an NBA game before so it was really exciting for them” Cummings added.
Of course, the biggest thrill for the youth hockey players were seats at two Islanders games. The two Finnish finalists, as well as the flag bearers for each team, were honored on the ice during an intermission.
The tournament concluded with a skills competition, a friendly skate and a banquet to celebrate the week and the game that unites us all. With new-found friendships made over the past week, the tournament ended, but the memories will last these kids a lifetime.
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