ISLANDERS HOCKEY ACADEMY IS BACK ON LONG ISLAND
With coaches and venues throughout Long Island, Islanders Hockey Academy is the perfect way to introduce your son or daughter to the sport of hockey.
Monday, 08.23.2010 / 11:15 AM / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
Now that you’re dressed, you leave the locker room, most likely with your skate guards still on. Ever so wobbly, mom or dad then take you by the hand to the edge of the boards, set you up with some egg crates or a walker and let you step out onto the ice.
Plop. That’s exactly right. You fell immediately. But that didn’t matter. You were determined and excited to learn to skate so you got up and tried again. Again, you fell, but you weren’t giving up.
If you know how to ice skate, learning how is probably one memory that you will remember for a lifetime. For the second season, the Islanders are partnering with our local community rinks in order to grow the game of ice hockey throughout Long Island.
“When the kids first come in, they are hanging on to a bucket and holding on to the walls and basically almost sitting on the ice,” said Rick Gardner, owner of the Newbridge Arena. “By the time the program is done, you’re watching them actually skating and they’re ready to start getting into more of skills training. By the end, they are starting to enjoy some of the clinics and are learning how to play the game.”
With many trained coaches and multiple venues throughout Long Island, the Islanders Hockey Academy Program is the perfect way to introduce your son or daughter to the sport of hockey.
“I think it’s good to have a NHL team partner up with the local rinks in helping promote ice skating and ice hockey,” Gardner said. “It’s good for the local rink and it’s also good for the Islanders organization to get these young kids involved in hockey, whether it’s playing hockey or going to a game.”
Your child may want to play hockey because they have seen a game on television or have friends who play, but whatever the reason, Islanders Hockey Academy is the perfect solution.
“When you see the first smiles on the kids’ faces when they put their helmet on for the first time, give mom a smile, that’s probably for me, the funniest and really the most rewarding aspect of everything,” said Fred Nielsen, owner of the Port Washington Skating Center. “As far as training the kids, it’s recreation. It’s fun. It’s supposed to be something that the kids can go out and enjoy.”
It’s definitely a program the children enjoy. Last year, Joe Didio Sr. of Hauppauge signed his son Joseph Didio Jr. up for the Islanders Hockey Academy Program. Joseph Jr. loved it so much that his father signed him up for a second year.
“It’s a great program,” said Joe Didio Sr. “It’s run by all experienced coaches and it’s great just seeing my son (Joseph Jr.) out there really skating and participating and playing hockey, learning the drills from real professional coaches.”
Joseph Didio Jr. was only six-years-old when he enrolled in the program last year, but his dad knew that he needed to get his son on the ice after watching him point to the television and say that he wanted to be “out there” one day, referring to the ice at the Nassau Coliseum.
“He was just so excited,” Didio said of his son’s experience last year. “Watching him step on to the ice and every stride he took, he just loved it. He loved listening, sitting there and just participating with these great coaches.”
Not only did Joseph Didio Jr. love going to Islanders Hockey Academy, his father said, “He improved dramatically just skating alone, great strides. He could skate, but not so well and now he’s just skating around the rink with no problem. He’s made incredible improvement in just the eight weeks that he had with the Islanders Hockey Academy. Now that he likes it so much, he’s at the Rinx in Hauppauge every Saturday.”
Each child that enrolls in the program will learn how to play hockey with trained professionals free of charge. Through the program, each child will be given a full set of hockey equipment and six to eight weeks of on ice instruction at one of the participating hockey rinks. The rinks include Iceworks, Port Washington Skating Center, The Rinx, Newbridge Arena and Long Beach Arena.
To get involved, each child and their families will sell 20 Islanders ticket vouchers at $32.50 each. Vouchers are redeemable for tickets at the Box Office for any Monday through Thursday 2010-11 regular season Islanders home game except for Opening Night and Rangers games. Each voucher is good for a minimum value ticket of $50.
“Financially it’s great because playing hockey is a financial obligation,” Didio said. “With ice time being expensive and equipment being donated by the Islanders, it gives you a no risk situation because you don’t know if your kid is going to like playing or not.”
“The tickets are worth a lot more than what we have to sell them for,” Didio continued. “It’s an easy sell because the vouchers are worth so much more ticket value wise. It’s easy to give away or sell to other people, plus you get people going to the Islanders games because you want to see them stay and see them succeed.”
Children that participated last year, Like Joseph Didio Jr., will have an opportunity to continue with the program for Level Two instruction. Children who participate in this level must already have their own equipment.
“(The Level Two instruction) gives you a chance to see the hard work and everything that the coaches have done with your kids to get them past the first level and now to watch them progress to the next level of hockey and ice skating,” said Gardner of Newbridge Arena. “It’s good to see that the kids are still interested in hockey because it means that you’re doing something right and the kids are enjoying themselves.”
The Islanders Hockey Academy Program only increased Didio Jr.’s interest in the sport.
“He’s looking forward to improving his skating ability and all his drills,” Didio said about his son’s enrollment in the Level Two program. “The practice drills that they have are fantastic. It’s great to watch him grow and get better. Every week he got better. It’s fantastic.”
The Islanders Hockey Academy Program is truly a great opportunity for children who want to learn to play hockey. All the partnering hockey rinks, including the Newbridge Arena and Port Washington Skating Center, are really looking forward to beginning the program again this year.
“It’s about accessibility to the sport and commitment to the community,” said Nielsen of Port Washington. “There are so many people that don’t naturally have the opportunity to come in and purchase equipment and get involved in the sport and it’s such a great sport. For the Islanders to support a program that allows them to get in at no cost, I think is something that’s a little bit special.”
Having the Islanders involved may be special, but if you remember back to your childhood when you first learned how to ice skate, you will remember your sheer determination and joy after the first time you made your first lap around the ice without falling. With Islanders Hockey Academy, your child will have that same exciting experience and will have fun while learning to play hockey.
If you are interested in enrolling your son or daughter, contact Michelle Winter at Michelle.Winter@NewYorkIslanders.com.