Nassau Coliseum has hosted thousands of big events over the course of its 38-year history. Home to the New York Islanders and its four Stanley Cup Championships, the Coliseum’s ice sheet has been reserved for some of the game’s elite such as Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Pat LaFontaine.
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But for one day, the fabled building played host to a special group of hockey players whose passion for the game rivals that of any NHL superstar. That one day, Nov. 6, 2010, was a special day for a group of special hockey players from five different teams located along the Eastern Seaboard, brought together for a clinic hosted by the Islanders in a further effort to push the NHL’s and American Special Hockey Association’s Hockey Is For Everyone initiative.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many special hockey players on the ice at one time. It was an outstanding event,” said Mike Hickey, president of ASHA. “It was a great thing for the Isles to do this for us. With our connection to Hockey Is For Everyone, some NHL teams have really stepped up and made it a great experience for these kids.”
ASHA, which specializes in providing opportunities on the ice for hockey for the developmentally disabled, currently boasts 46 teams in its ranks. Among those teams were five that spent the day on Long Island including the Long Island Blues, New York Raptors, Southern Connecticut Storm, New Jersey Dare Devils, and Philadelphia Fearless Flyers. In addition, two sled hockey teams with the Albany Cougars and the Long Island Rough Riders joined in the festivities.
“This was the first time an NHL team has worked to combine programs outside of their local areas,” said Hickey. “We have so many [special hockey] teams and programs out there… It doesn’t take a lot for some NHL teams to do something like this, and it has such a huge impact on our players and our programs. It will be wonderful to see this continue to grow.”
“We’ve done things like this with the Islanders in the past, but nothing quite on this large of a scale,” said Long Island Blues President, Mike Russo. “The kids look forward to this every year. It’s great to have the Isles get involved like this to give the kids this experience and these types of memories that they will have for years to come.”
Hickey, who made the trip up from the Maryland area, echoed those sentiments.
“In this situation it was such a great exposure for the Long Island Blues and the Islanders to get together and do something with a shared partnership,” Hickey said. “The more teams seeing this and saying ‘Hey we should be doing something like this,’ the more opportunities there are for stuff like this to happen. It’s a great way to showcase our players and what they do.”
And with over 500 people in attendance at this year’s event, plans are already in the works for next year’s event.
“We want people to know that just because you have a disability there’s still a place on the ice for you,” said Josh Rose, the Islanders Director of Group Sales. “We’re welcoming anyone that wants to come out to do so. From our standpoint this is a really great event and is something that all of our staff really all enjoy doing. We can’t wait for next year.”
***For information on how you can get your team involved in next year's New York Islanders Special Hockey Day, contact Josh Rose at (516) 501-6700 and learn more about the ASHA by visiting americanspecialhockey.org