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Community Service Helps Long Island Gulls Bond On and Off the Ice

By Kyle Huson, 04/01/22, 11:45AM MDT


16U team has contributed to many causes over the year

Rochester, Mich. – Before the Long Island Gulls began their 16U season, the coaching staff met with the team and gave them a simple message: pay it forward. So, the team each week had a goal of doing a task to help others, whether it be a small task or a larger task.

The message stuck with the players, and throughout the year, the team has grown stronger on and off the ice through a number of different community service initiatives. It has certainly helped them become a closer team, leading into the 2022 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championships.

“I think the biggest thing we try to preach to all of our guys is just being a good person,” said head coach Dan Cassano. “I think that’s really the genesis of anything we do. I think it’s translated on the ice, too, with everybody pulling for everybody. It’s going to pay off in the long run.”

“They really try to make sure that every kid grows not just as a hockey player but as a person,” said Nick Fascia. Griffin Erdman agreed.

“Our coaching staff cares a lot more about us becoming good young men,” said Erdman. “Winning is obviously a huge part, but they really take pride in how we develop on and off the ice.”

Youth Tier I 16U Home

One of the initiatives was the Tunnel to Towers run in Manhattan. The run honors first responders and all that were affected on 9/11. It takes place on a Sunday morning at 7:30am, so the guys have to get up early and, depending on their home’s location in the busy city, potentially travel up to an hour to do it. 

Cassano said that speaks volumes about the kids on the team.

Despite the fact that none of the players were even born when 9/11 took place, they are able to get an understanding of what went on and the importance of the first responders. It hits even more close to home for the Gulls who have a coach in the program that was a first responder on that fateful day.

“It was kind of our first group thing with both the 18U and 16U teams,” said Logan Renkowski, who is a native New Yorker. “It was really special for me being from New York and really eye-opening to see what all went on and to see all of the people that were really involved in it.”

“It really just brought us together as a team,” said Alex Bosland. “We’re a New York state team, of course, so we took a lot of pride in that and remembered the people that were affected. And it just really allowed us to create a team aspect early on so that we have our brothers and nobody is above each other.”

“A lot of guys came up to [assistant coach] Vinny [Smith] and me and were saying ‘Thank you, that was an unbelievable experience,’” said Cassano.

The team also raised over $100,000 for cancer awareness during their Hockey Fights Cancer game.

“A good friend of Vinny and mine, Mike Marcou, was diagnosed with cancer. And so, it really hit home and it helped us all realize that it’s bigger than just yourself,” said Cassano. “I also think it brought organizations like us and other rivals on Long Island together.”

The kids on the team have embraced the community service initiatives. It has helped them grow as young men and as they entered the tournament, they feel like it has helped them come together even more as a team on the ice.

“I think all of the things we’ve done have definitely brought us closer together,” said Fascia. “We know that if we are in a close game, we can turn to the guy next to us.”

It is also not just the coaching staff that has been pushing the initiatives. They certainly helped organize and push the importance of helping in the community and the message before the season sparked something in the kids. But when asked if there was anything else they wanted to touch on before the end of the interview, all four players jumped at the opportunity to speak about a program that has really touched them.

“Our Little Brother program has been great,” said Bosland. “With my little brother and me, we’ve grown super close and I’ve been a mentor to him and it’s special to see those relationships grow.”

“It allows us to help teach the kids how to work and how to act, and I think it’s huge for setting the standards for those who come after us,” said Erdman.

The Gulls have played well during the Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championship thus far. 

They very well could win the whole thing. 

But even if they don’t after traveling to Rochester, Mich., the group of teenagers have already traveled the distance off the ice, together. And that’s something that no one can take away from them.

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