Long Island, NY – The Village of East Rockaway is teaming up with the New York Islanders to promote the game of hockey, sportsmanship and teamwork. Long Island’s only professional sports team will host street hockey clinics this summer with the help of the village’s recreation department.
Dates, times and locations for the clinics are currently being worked on, but Recreation Director Rick Kappel is glad the Islanders chose to launch their Isles Street program in East Rockaway. “There are tons of villages on Long Island that would probably love to do a program like this,” Kappel said.
The Islanders recently donated hockey sticks, balls, pads, nets, goalie equipment and instruction manuals to the village to help kick start the program.
“We’ve done stuff ball hockey clinics in the past,” said Michelle Winter, manager of amateur hockey development for the Islanders, “but there’s never really been an organized program that carries the Isles’ name, so this is kind of a jumping off point for us.”
Kappel said the recreation department was looking to start a roller hockey program within the village when he reached out to Winter. The National Hockey League sponsors a street hockey program, which led the Islanders and Kappel to begin discussing a partnership back in November.
Winter said her choice was easy once she found out Kappel and his staff was interested in the program. “Basically what we do is we provide equipment and we’re lucky that the guys that run the East Rockaway center are pretty experienced and know what they’re doing,” Winter said. She added that the instruction manuals the Islanders provided will probably not be needed, but most importantly the equipment will be put to good use.
“We have responsibility here, being the only professional sports team here on Long Island to grow the game of hockey,” Winter said. “We’re not the city, we’re not Connecticut, we have our own little niche.”
She added that hockey can be a year-round sport and it is important to get kids involved at a young age. “Street hockey is a good introduction to both roller and ice hockey,” Winter said, “and if gets kids learning the fundamentals of sticking handling, position and strategies they can take that with them if they decide to go forward with hockey.”
Kappel and the recreation staff are launching a roller hockey league that begins on June 2. There will be both kids and adult leagues.
“It’s great just to get the kids involved with any program to keep them off the streets,” Kappel said. “I know when I was a child in East Rockaway hockey was huge here, there was no league within the village though. Giving children the opportunity to play a game such as this, with the teamwork and the effort that goes into it I think could be great for some of the kids.”
The Islanders will be helping East Rockaway kick off its roller hockey season by bringing games, prizes and Sparky the mascot to the village’s recreation center on May 5. Registration starts at noon and runs until 3 p.m.
“It’s important that we’re meshed in the community,” Winter said. “As a club I think we do a lot of things in the community with schools and youth hockey programs, and this is just another way for us to reach out and hopefully introduce the great game of hockey to other kids that maybe wouldn’t ordinarily be apart of it.”
Kappel and his staff are aiming to get more kids involved in their programs and to help build a community relationship amongst residents.
“The goal is to introduce this program to the youth of East Rockaway and possibly give them some programs that they haven’t experienced in the past,” Kappel said. “We’d like to have overall community involvement from the parents, coaches, volunteers and give the children of the community something else that they can take part in.”