The Islanders’ newest acquisition is about 4 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds, but captain John Tavares called him the toughest player on the ice after practice Tuesday.
Brandon Bloom, 8, of South Setauket, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in April 2016, and has since been undergoing chemotherapy. On Tuesday, he became an Islander for a day.
“I thought I’d be so scared, but I had a lot of fun,” Brandon said in the locker room at the Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders’ practice facility in East Meadow. He called the experience a “dream come true.”
Through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Random Acts of Light program, Brandon got to practice and hang out with players from his favorite hockey team.
Brandon wore a helmet, full pads, skates and a jersey with “Bloom” and the number 1 stitched on its back. From the bench, he watched the players run through their drills and occasionally lean over the railing to give him a fist bump.
He was invited onto the ice to lead stretches, with the Islanders circled around him. He practiced shooting with Tavares, beaming even when he stumbled and fell. And with a player steadying him from behind, Brandon scored his first goal, spurring the Islanders to lift their sticks and huddle around him in celebration.
Afterward, player Casey Cizikas took the puck Brandon shot into the net, wrapped it in masking tape and labeled it “1st NHL goal” before handing it back to him.
“He’s way stronger than we are. He battles for his life,” the Islanders’ Anthony Beauvillier said. “Just the smile on his face was worth everything today.”
As Brian and Stefanie Bloom watched their son from the stands, they remarked on how grateful they were that Brandon had this opportunity.
“We don’t know what each week is going to bring, but moments like this give him that high to help him get through it,” Stefanie Bloom said.