New York Islanders Defenseman Nick Leddy came out to the Sunset Park Recreation Center in Brooklyn playing street hockey with a great group of kids who were mostly new to the sport. Playing on a manageably chilly autumn afternoon, Leddy sent every kid home with an autograph and a smile on their face.
Sponsored by the City Parks Foundation, the kids, aged 8-12, enrolled in six week program which began last month, teaching them the basic rules of the game and different skills, such as stick handling and passing. The majority of the players had never shot a puck before the clinic began.
The afternoon started off with Brett Yormark, the Barclays Center CEO. He did not miss a beat when it came to getting the kids excited for the day by asking them to chant “New York Islanders!” and promising them each two free tickets to the December 15th game against the Florida Panthers at the Barclays Center.
Yormark made sure to display his excitement about the arrival of hockey here in Brooklyn. “I’m thrilled because I have had the opportunity to bring two teams to Brooklyn!”. Of course, speaking about the earlier arrival of the Nets, Yormark mentioned the importance of promoting a fresh sport across all of Kings County. “Basketball is engrained in the borough. Hockey’s new, and we’re excited about the opportunity of growing the sport.”
Next, the City Parks Foundation’s Director of Sports, Mike Silverman took over the microphone and made sure to get the kids pumped up. He mentioned that a group photo would take place right before they began their hockey drills. Moments later came arrival of Leddy, who showed up right on time. As Leddy walked over to the players, they were all enamored with the idea of seeing a professional athlete, from a sport with which they now had experience, right in front of their eyes.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President also made an appearance, smiling throughout the whole afternoon because he saw how much fun the kids were having. After taking a photo with Leddy, Adams spoke about what it was like to watch a game at the Barclays Center, “Once you get there, you will be hooked.”
During the drills, it was clear why Leddy was the main attraction. Wearing the Islanders new, alternate black and white Brooklyn jersey with his name on the back, Leddy showed the kids the correct way to shoot a slap shoot by getting behind the puck. He also showed them how to pass properly and the proper technique for stick handling.
During a Q and A session, Leddy laughed off the question from one of the youngsters who had asked if he had ever played in the Barclays Center. In his midwestern accent, Leddy spoke about growing up in Eden Praire, a pastoral village in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota. Leddy also mentioned what is what like to reach the hockey Promised Land when he won a Stanley Cup championship in 2013 with the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s definitely one of the hardest trophies to get, but it’s the most well deserving and it was the most fun time of my life. Once you win it once, you want to win it many more times.”
The day finished with an autograph session with Leddy who was a natural at engaging with the young athletes. Even the parents who were present could not take the smiles off their faces with their smart phones in hand, taking picture after picture. It was a great day for the kids, a great day for the City Parks Foundation, a great day for the New York Islanders and a great day for Brooklyn.