First, I’d like to thank everyone who was so supportive of my blog post last week.
When I wrote about my journey from news to sports I never expected the outpouring of support on social media and in person. I had all those emotions built up and felt I could finally share. Thanks for reading my post, and for reaching out with comments.
This week I’d like to look at some of the things the Islanders are doing off the ice. Sandwiched between two tough losses, the team is working on getting better in practice. Away from the rink, there were several community events the players took part in.
Throughout the season, players visit different schools to talk with kids about living a healthy lifestyle and the importance of studying. I’ve attended a few school visits and can tell you the screams in those auditoriums are deafening. If you think the playoffs were loud, try watching John Tavares talk to 300 second and third graders.
Last Wednesday, the Isles hosted an event at the Empire State Building to unveil their Pucks and Paws calendar that’s going on sale this Friday! Earlier in the season, all the players snuggled up with some adorable puppies who need homes and took lots of fun pictures all over their practice facility.
Then on Wednesday, Thomas Greiss, Nick Leddy and Calvin deHaan shared some of their experiences with North Shore Animal League America. Greiss adopted a dog he named Zeus from the animal shelter last season and this year it was Calvin deHaan, who fell for a new puppy and adopted Mia. Leddy also has a few dogs at home and the three players were excited to share their passion for animals for a great cause. They even had a few laughs answering some fun questions about life after hockey.
I’ve seen the calendar and also almost took home a puppy. If you’re looking for a great gift for a family member or friend who bleeds blue-and-orange and loves dogs, look no further. The proceeds go to North Shore Animal League America, a no-kill shelter. Check out www.nhl.com/islanders on Black Friday.
On Thursday after practice, the Islanders skated with visually impaired children and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Watching the kids step onto the ice for the first time, and the reaction from the players when they saw each child smile, was priceless.
Most of the kids had never skated before, and the players were very patient and accommodating to all of their new friends. I watched rookie Anthony Beauvillier skate around the rink for more laps than I could count, holding a little girl in his arms. Josh Bailey stayed on the ice with his new buddy Brady after the rest of the team was done. Brady plays youth hockey and wanted to pass the puck with Bailey. The Isles forward was happy to take that time and even gave his stick to the young fan. Brady was beaming after the event and told me he couldn’t wait to tell his friends.
It was an hour or so out of the team’s regular routine, but the impact they made with those children will last a lifetime. Several parents were glued to the glass with their cameras and phones, snapping away as tears fell down their faces. One mom told me that learning to skate with the Isles will help build confidence in her daughter, who’s really had an uphill battle in life so far.
We’re going to have a feature coming up during our pregame show for a closer look at the Isles skating with the visually impaired kids. I’ll make sure to tweet out the link when we know what game, so stay tuned for that.
As for this week, the Isles flew to California on Saturday and have had a few days to adjust to the time change, practice and do some team bonding. This could be the road trip they need to turn the season around. The first test will be Tuesday against Anaheim. It’s a late puck drop since we’re out west (10 PM), but grab a cup of coffee or take a nap after work, and stay up with us for all the action on MSG+.