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Islanders make Christmas dreams come true

The Islanders players shopped for toys for sick children spending holidays in Long Island and Queens hospitals.

Friday, 12.10.2010 / 11:53 AM ET / News
By David Hochman
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Islanders make Christmas dreams come true
There was a chill in the air on the morning of December 7. The blustery day felt like Christmas was long gone and the middle of winter was upon us. The sun hadn’t yet peaked over the horizon and the highways and stores were empty – except for one.

The New York Islanders shed their winter coats and ice skates and threw on their orange and blue sweaters inside the Toys“R”Us in Carle Place for the Islanders annual Holiday Hospital Toy Shopping event, sponsored by EmblemHealth. More than half the team came together to buy gifts for the area’s hospitalized children.

“This is one of the most touching events we participate in all year,” said Islanders Community Relations Manager Ann Rina. “It’s really important for the players to pick out the toys they actually bring to the hospitals. It makes it a little bit deeper of a connection and all the guys enjoy it. It’s an early morning, but once they get here, they have a lot of fun with it.”

Each player had their own strategy and teammate to work with. John Tavares picked out video games, while Rick DiPietro snagged Twilight DVD’s and Blake Comeau browsed board games. A few aisles down, PA Parenteau was checking out hockey sticks and James Wisniewski was stocking up on Justin Bieber action figures.

Defenseman Mark Eaton strolled through the aisles with his wife, Dorrie, filling their shopping carts with boxes upon boxes of dolls. The Eatons have two daughters of their own, giving them a leg up on some of the other players in deciding what toys were best. Even though the presents weren’t for their own little girls, the smiles never left either of their faces.

“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” Eaton said. “It’s one of the perks of being a professional athlete. Days like today are fun.”

When the cash registers finally cleared, the players had selected over 400 presents to distribute to children across six hospitals on Long Island.

None of the players seemed to have more fun than Zenon Konopka, who stacked his arms high with Barbie dolls and was heard over the Toys“R”Us loudspeaker more than once.

“Clean up in aisle five, PA Parenteau spilled his latte,” Konopka chirped. “That’s clean up in aisle five.”

Konopka’s just a kid at heart and was being himself on this memorable day.

“You try to put yourself into their shoes to figure out what they would want,” Konopka told Islanders TV. “A lot of people say I act like a ten-year-old sometimes, so I used that to my advantage today and I think it worked out pretty well.”

The players loosened up in the toy store, joking with their teammates and family members who joined them, but never forgot how important the event was. These toys will go to a very special group of kids who need that extra bit of joy in their lives come the holiday season.

Islanders captain Doug Weight was joined by his wife, Allison, for the shopping spree. With three children of their own, helping out some young ones in need was a no-brainer.

“It’s a special day next week, being able to distribute these toys to the kids,” Weight said. “It’s a very humbling experience, especially at this time of the year with all the holidays coming up.”

That special day is December 14, when the entire roster will act like impromptu Santas and hand deliver the toys themselves.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 46 17 19 -4 36
K. Okposo 47 12 24 -9 36
B. Nelson 49 20 11 1 31
F. Nielsen 49 15 16 -2 31
M. Grabovski 49 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 48 8 15 5 23
A. Lee 49 7 14 1 21
N. Leddy 49 3 16 -12 19
R. Strome 38 5 13 -6 18
N. Kulemin 49 5 9 6 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 12 10 4 .921 2.18
T. Greiss 13 6 2 .927 2.32
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