Hockey sticks clacked as children from the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys and Girls Club played a fun, competitive game of floor hockey with Sparky the Dragon, mascot of the New York Islanders, on June 6.
Kids hollered “Sparky!” when the blue and orange beast made his entrance to the gymnasium at the club’s facility. They couldn’t wait to take pictures with him, give him a hug, and, of course, play some hockey with him.
“I think it’s great for the Islanders to come back to Long Island for the kids and their fans,” said Robert Heney, a staff member of the Boys and Girls Club. “Even though they’re in Brooklyn now, it’s awesome to see them supporting our club.”
This is the second year that Sparky has visited the club, as part of its effort to revamp its street hockey program in communities on Long Island. The Islanders are providing equipment for the club, such as hockey sticks, balls and goalie gear. Members of the Islanders organization have shared tips and pointers on the action-packed sport.
Boys and Girls Club staffer Jamar West said that sports programs like this do more than just improve a child’s athletic skills. “It’s also about interacting with people, making friends and learning how to work with others,” he explained. “Some of my best friends are people who I played sports with growing up. I think it’s a great aspect to see how the Islanders are getting involved with the kids.”
West added that more children have signed up since the program began in 2016. Sarah Finnerty, the Islanders’ community relations coordinator, said that the goal for the program is to add a “spark” to hockey on Long Island once again. “Long Island will always be our home,” she said. “Reaching out to these communities who have always supported us is what we’re all about and we really want to rebuild this program.”
The Boys and Girls Club has several recreational programs throughout the year, but it is thrilled to see the growth of hockey in its community. West described Sparky’s visit as a fun experience for everybody involved, and said he hoped to see the interest grow in the coming years.