Last month, two 7 years olds from Long Island were given the opportunity to participate in the NHL All-Star weekend. Chase Tam, a third grader at Guggenheim Elementary School in Port Washington was selected to represent the New York Islanders at the All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.
Tam participates in the Learn To Play Program, which provides first time participants with head-to-toe equipment as well as weekly sessions of age-appropriate on-ice instruction and certified coaching, led by National Hockey League alumni. The program hopes to teach children the game of ice hockey, while building important character traits they will need to succeed off the ice.
“The Learn to Play initiative aims to be the gold standard for youth hockey programs with the goal of inspiring more families to join the hockey community,” the NHL website states.
The three day All-Star weekend began on Friday, Jan. 24, with a red carpet event, where Tam got to meet Mathew Barzal, as well as other NHL All-Stars.
“I had a very good time,” Tam said. “Many of the best players from the NHL were there [at the red carpet event].”
On Saturday, the children got to participate in their own youth skills competition at the Kiener Plaza Outdoor Rink. The two children represented the Eastern Conference, along with children eight and under (classified as mites), from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres. They competed in a three-on-three game against mites from the Chicago Blackhawks, Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues.
“My favorite part was the skills competition because I got to see them compete against each other,” Tam said “It was exciting to see the professional players compete.”
The special three-on-three game was attended by Canadian women’s All-Star goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and United States women’s All-Star blueliner Lee Stecklein joined in to help run the game.
Tam has been playing hockey for two years now and really enjoys the sport. He wants to spread the message to encourage other children to join the Learn To Play Program.
“Anyone who wants to play hockey should get into the Learn To Play program because it teaches you good sportsmanship and how to work hard [at a sport],” Tam said.
Tam said he is extremely grateful to the New York Islanders for giving him the opportunity to participate in the All-Star weekend event.