Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 03 September 2010 00:00
It’s no secret that young athletes, like the young hockey players at Syosset Iceworks, can learn a lot from the professionals about their sport. However, some may find it surprising that the players can learn a trick or two from the experience as well. “I did two new drills today that I’ve never done in my life, and really, really enjoyed them,” said New York Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais of his experience instructing Syosset campers.
On Wednesday Sept. 1, Gervais visited the Iceworks hockey camp at Islanders Iceworks, located on Underhill Boulevard in Syosset. He skated with 15 young campers between the ages of 5 and 12 for about an hour. Gervais assisted the coaches in teaching the kids about pivoting and skating backwards. The defenseman led drills and participated in them as well. He also took time to help some of the children in one-on-one situations, encouraging them and giving helpful advice.
The son of an elementary school teacher, 25-year-old Gervais is no stranger to dealing with children; in fact, he recently taught classes in nutrition and English to a group of youngsters back home in Quebec, where he grew up. The Islanders player said that he loves teaching kids how to play hockey, and that teaching kids provides a good refresher course in some details of the game that it’s easy to gloss over while dealing with the more complex aspects of hockey strategy.
In addition to the visit to hockey camp, Gervais also made a recent visit to the Steve & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, where he played games and drew pictures with the children, and taught them how to count to ten in French.
With the Islanders splitting their practice time between Iceworks in Syosset and Nassau Coliseum, Gervais has had plenty of opportunities to explore the area, which he quite enjoys. “What I love about Long Island is that every restaurant- and a lot of businesses- it’s family, or friends, and they take a lot of pride in their business. It’s their own business, so when you walk in, you feel like you’re friends already,” said Gervais. He mentioned Bagel Master in Syosset as an example of a place that exemplifies that friendly Long Island feeling.
The feeling of goodwill towards the area seems to be mutual, as Gervais was the recipient of the Nassau County Athlete of the Year Award in 2008. While proud of the achievement, Gervais was characteristically humble about the award: “I was just really surprised, because you know, there are so many great athletes here on Long Island…and I was really, really lucky to get some recognition like that…but you don’t do it for the camera, you don’t do it for, you know, the trophy or anything like that,” he said.
In addition to hitting the ice, Gervais said he really enjoys cooking- although there’s no danger of him abandoning the Islanders any time soon for a career as a restaurateur, apparently. “I don’t think I’m ever gonna start a restaurant. You know, because if I mess up a dish, I want to make sure it’s only me and my girlfriend who are gonna get sick,” said Gervais jokingly; his girlfriend was unavailable for comment.
His advice for young hockey players was succinct: Have fun, and be sure to listen to the coaches. “If you’re listening everyday and having fun, you’re going to improve because you’re going to hear different tips at every level,” said Gervais.
As far as making improvements to his own game, he said that he plans to do some work this season on shooting the puck more and being more physical in aspects of his game, as he believes the division will only get more physically demanding as time goes on.
Still, despite any concerns about the challenges of next season, the order of the day was definitely fun.
“Not too long ago, I was that young kid on the ice, you know? And I could just imagine [what it would be like if] an NHL guy stepped on the ice with me, how amazing it would have been…I never had that chance, so it’s fun for me,” said Gervais with a smile.