The New York Islanders and the New York Rangers have one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. On Saturday, the heated rivalry took it down a notch for a great cause as the two franchises came together for an alumni charity hockey game at Northwell Ice Center in East Meadow, New York.
It was the first time that the two organizations took part in an alumni game together, and its importance for the fans, the players, and everyone involved was immeasurable.
Here is the link to the alumni rosters: Alumni Rosters
The charity tournament, which ended in a 9-8 shootout win for the New York Islanders, raised $25,000 for the Northwell Health Foundation and provided memories that will last a lifetime.
“Seeing players from your childhood back on the ice brings back such happy and nostalgic memories,” die-hard Islanders fan Kim Moisa said. “I felt like a little girl again seeing the Islanders at the Coliseum. It meant so much to see the players’ smiles and watching them enjoy every moment being back on the ice, Ranger or Islander.”
“It was fun for both Islander and Ranger fans alike, and watching beloved alumni take the ice again in your favorite team’s colors is priceless.”
Paul Conroy, a die-hard Rangers fan, echoed similar sentiments.
“For both organizations to convene and provide this game for the fans is incredible, and the fact that it was played on behalf of the Northwell Health Foundation makes it all the more amazing to have witnessed,” Conroy said. “My friend and I had the good fortune of seeing the Rangers alumni play the Bruins alumni at the Garden back in 2019, and to now see these guys play so close to home was the ultimate way to spend a Saturday. ”
For some guys, it’s been a while since they got to see one another.
“It’s a great feeling,” Islanders alum Shawn Bates (2001-2008) said before the game. “First and foremost, you get the opportunity to see some former teammates. I mean, we’re going back 15 years ago, 10 to 15 years ago. And most of the guys that are playing today (in charity game), I haven’t seen them. And in that time span, as well as that you get a chance to hang around with some Hall of Famers like, I guess, I’m coaching with Brian Trottier. Hey, you know, it was news to meet this morning, but it’s obviously something that that’s going to be fun for me.”
Whether they were on the ice playing, on the bench, or in the stands, the alumni turnout served as a reminder to remember some of the greats that had passed away this year.
Over the last four months, the New York Islanders organization and fanbase had to say goodbye to three legends in Clark Gillies (1974-1986), Jean Potvin (1973-1978, 1978-1981), and Mike Bossy (1977-1987).
The New York Rangers dealt with losses as well, as over the summer they said goodbye to legend Rod Gilbert (1960-1978) and then in April, said goodbye to another in Emile Francis (1948-1952).
Mike Bossy’s no. 22 jersey could be seen hanging behind the New York Islanders bench during the game, as he passed away back on Apr. 15.
On #Isles bench during alumni game: pic.twitter.com/he4Mptcerd
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) April 23, 2022
Islanders alum Steve Webb (1996-2004) was asked prior to the game on the importance of the event, especially with these recent losses.
“Those gentlemen you just named there are icons and established hockey here on Long Island, in New York, in the New York metropolitan area, and it’s why we have the fans we have today because of those guys,” Webb said. “I think we all feel for those guys. We’re in for a big alumni weekend this weekend, so it’s a lot more meaningful when you get talking with guys and sharing their memories of their interactions, with their teammates and, you know, their lives and their families, how they all interact with one another.”
“And it’s, it’s pretty important when you get together and having your family, hockey family here together and to have these conversations.”
Cherishing these moments was a theme on Saturday.
“I saw Denny Potvin, I saw Bobby Ny and I and you know, with Clarkie and Potsie and Bossy that happens in the last five, six months. I think these guys were solid teammates,” former Islander Benoit Hogue (1991-1995) said. “It’s like me in the 90s losing a guy that was with me and I think we all like, you know, kind of hug each other yesterday saying hello.”
“And you know, like I said, the moment that we have together we have to cherish that because we’re all getting older. And things happen. And it has been tough.”
Darius Kasparaitis, who started his career with the New York Islanders back in 1992 (1992-1997) and hung up the skates as a member of the New York Rangers in 2007 (2002-2007), was fortunate enough to be a part of two legendary alumni groups and voiced how important having an alumni game like this was, especially at this point in time.
Well, I think it’s very important,” Kasparaitis said. “I personally knew all those guys, and they were very deeply involved in alumni. And especially Gilbert and Clark Gillies, you know, I got to know him through alumni. He was a great, you know, human being, and it’s important to cherish.”
“So I think, to just you know, be around and appreciate each other because you know, life is too short and sometimes you never know, some guys never be again in the locker room again so we have to appreciate that.”
The New York Islanders have had alumni around often throughout the years, but since Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin became majority owners back in the summer of 2016, there has been more of an effort to bring around anyone who donned an Islanders sweater and keep them involved in the organization.
“They have been heavily focused on that and engagement and bringing the guys back in and giving people the opportunity to participate, like anybody who’s played a game, to be honest, is welcome to come in for these weekends,” Webb said about the Islanders ownership. These weekends, you get to meet people, meet their families and how their kids are growing up and then you start interacting.”
Webb then shared a touching story about a connection he made at an alumni event.
“A couple of years ago was we saw a guy, Mike Stevens, and his wife here and lo and behold a couple months later, she texts me she saying, ‘I’m sitting at the same table as your father.’ Her mom and my dad were eating dinners together at the old folk’s home back home and she’s sitting at the table, she’s putting two and two together with the Islander outfit my dad has on, back home in Peterborough. To have those relationships, they started actually here, actually Alumni Weekend. I didn’t know somebody was looking after my father, you know, in his last remaining days, and it was just nice to have that.”
Saturday was a day full of smiles, a day full of laughs, a bittersweet day. Alumni are so valuable to franchises, as the willingness to have them come around, be a part of events, shows not only what that player meant to a fanbase but what the fanbase meant to the players.
“I love the Islanders. I love everything about the organization,” Bates said. “So anytime there’s an opportunity to come down and in and help the organization out, I’m willing to do that.”