The Islanders took some time off the ice on Thursday afternoon to get into the holiday spirit.
Mathew Barzal, Cal Clutterbuck, Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy met with young patients and their families at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, handing out presents and memorabilia as part of the team’s annual December visit.
There was plenty of hockey talk, including discussion of the team’s performance this season and playoff chances. For the players, however, the day was bigger than that, offering them a chance to put a smile on even the youngest fan’s face.
“We want to let them be kids for a couple of minutes,” Clutterbuck said. “If they can have one good day or one good week from us coming in here and saying hello and spending a little bit of time with the kids . . . then we’re happy to do that.”
Clutterbuck added that being a father makes visits like this even more special for him and hoped that the Islanders provided a bright spot during an otherwise challenging time.
“I understand that the people in here are going through some really tough times,” he said. “You just try and help them out any way you can. The amazing thing about coming into these places is that the people here always seem to be more positive than the people coming to visit. It’s uplifting.”
The chance to give back on Long Island also was particularly important for the players. In between visits and getting tips on how to break their current two-game skid, all four Islanders were reminded of how passionate their fans are.
“The kids are fans, the doctors are fans,” said Barzal, who added he wished the Islanders could do more events like this during the season. “These guys are in here watching our games and cheering us on, and that gives us a boost. It’s really cool to see.”
The Islanders are looking to get back on track in Saturday’s game against the Red Wings. After meeting with the kids at Winthrop, they have something even bigger to play for.
“It puts life in perspective a little bit, seeing these kids,” Barzal said. “For them to get out and come hang out for a little bit is rewarding to us. I love doing this kind of stuff for those kids.”