Disappointed that the National Hockey League Winter Classic was canceled this year, a group of young hockey players decided to plan their own.
On Dec. 23, the Long Island Royals will play the New Jersey Avalanche at 9 a.m. in Central Park.
The game, “Hockey in the Park,” was thought up by a boy on the Avalanche team as a way to recreate the NHL game that fans look forward to all year, said Sandra Carreon-John, whose son, Christopher, came up with the idea.
When Avalanche Coach Tom Duhamel told them it would cost money to pay for a rink, the boys offered to pay for it themselves, Carreon-John said.
“They said, ‘We have money saved up,’” she said. “‘We’ll pay for it.’”
Duhamel said they invited the Long Island Royals to participate in the event because it’s a strong hockey program and the two teams always match up well. The boys from both teams agreed to contribute $30 each to pay for time at Lasker Rink in Central Park.
And then superstorm Sandy hit, which affected most of the boys on either team “in one way or another,” Carreon-John said.
So the boys decided to raise additional funds to donate to Sandy relief, and then to their surprise, CCM Hockey, a sporting goods brand, heard about the boys’ effort and decided to pay for their rink time and also match their donations.
Another company, Westside Skate and Stick, also offered to donate custom jerseys for each of the boys to wear during the game.
Dana Kearney, whose son plays on the Royals, said the team was excited to be invited to play, and that the charity aspect has brought everyone together.
“It’s really nice how the families have gotten together to just do such a nice thing,” she said. “The fact that the companies are donating the stuff for us and sponsoring it is absolutely huge.”
Kearney, who manages the team with her husband, Bobby, said the parents are just as excited as the kids.
“The kids are very excited about it because they get to have their own Winter Classic,” she said. “But the parents are probably more excited than the kids, I don’t think they understand how it’s going to help the people affected by Sandy.”
Duhamel said it’s been a difficult time for the team with children being out of school after the storm and some players affected more directly. He said everyone is looking forward to a good game for a good cause.
“We’ve played them a few times already this year and they’ve been great games, very close games,” he said of the Royals. “With Long Island and New Jersey being the areas hardest hit by Sandy and Central Park being between us, it’s a great fit.”
Admission to the game is free and the teams are still collecting donations to be given to the Help USA Sandy Relief Fund. To donate, contact Kearney at 516-509-4945 or email@example.com.