Ask any hockey fan, our sport is the hardest to play, period. Participants need to move a three-inch piece of rubber on a one-inch by six-foot stick down a two-hundred-foot sheet of ice with other players trying to clobber you left and right. On top of that, once you get past everyone who is trying to kill you, you need to get this piece of rubber passed a superhuman netminder with the reflexes to pick a fly out of the air like Jackie Chan. Once you’ve become good enough, you work your way up through the ranks of junior hockey, get noticed by scouts, and take aim at the NHL. The top 217 prospects will then get drafted by the 31 NHL teams, but even this doesn’t guarantee a roster spot. Most will have to go back to the minor leagues and continue to develop for a few more years, while some will never play an NHL game.
This week, Warrior Hockey gave a couple fans the opportunity of a lifetime to bypass the struggle of getting to the NHL. They helped the Islanders orchestrate their first ever Fantasy Camp. Campers drafted teams of Islanders legends, attended cocktail parties and golf outings with their idols, learned technique from the Islanders coaches, and received equipment courtesy of Warrior Hockey. The team made sure that legends from each decade were represented, as some Isles alumni included Billy Smith and Clark Gillies from the 70’s and 80’s, Pierre Turgeon from the 80’s and 90’s, Shawn Bates from the 2000’s, and even Eric Boulton and Matt Carkner from the 2010’s.
Last Thursday, the fun began as campers were able to draft the teams of their dreams. They instantly became friends with the Islanders legends, as by Friday, they were sharing beers and telling stories. Many campers marveled and sat in awe as they listened to the Islanders legends tell their crazy hockey stories. The relationships made shouldn’t come as a surprise though. The Islanders are a team that has been known to have relationships with their fans since they arrived in 1972. The suburban layout of Long Island allowed residents to become friends and neighbors with the Islanders superstars over the years. Even when the team moved to Brooklyn, legends like Mike Bossy have been spotted riding the LIRR to games and spending time with the fans.
In addition to bonding with the players, campers got to hang out with Islanders and Sound Tigers Head Coaches Doug Weight and Brent Thompson. The “chalk talk” session provided campers with the opportunity to ask the coaches any questions they had about the game. As a child himself, Weight had the opportunity to meet Detroit Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman. He wanted this experience to replicate the one he had with one of his idols.
When it came time to hit the ice, the two teams battled hard in multiple scrimmages. The campers had a great time learning from fellow players and coaches. Anyone who was keeping up with the Islanders social media these last few days had a first hand look at the fun the campers were having. “They’re happy to be on the ice,” Pierre Turgeon said of the campers. “You tell them good job and you can see the smile on their face and it makes a difference. We enjoy this.” While many of the campers will not make the NHL, this was definitely a fun experience for all and a chance to learn from some of the best to ever play the game of hockey.