The New York Islanders' team-wide parking lot snowball fight begins today for players that were not invited to participate in their national teams at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The opportunity to hurl frozen balls of snow at teammates may not replace a chance to represent their countries at the Olympics, but the Islanders are giving their all anyway.
"For sure, I would have liked to have gone to Sochi," said Kyle Okposo, who was snubbed by Team USA but instead will join Brock Nelson on Team Minnesota for the Islanders snowball fight. "Although the Olympic door closed, the chance to tag Josh Bailey square in the chest with a cannonball made of ice doesn't come around too often. I plan to leave it all out in the parking lot."
On the first day of competition, Colin McDonald and Brian Strait will lead Team New England against Team Eastern Bloc teammates Evgeni Nabokov and Radek Martinek.
"We've got to be confident and use our environment to our advantage," Nabokov said. "You can't waste a single throw. Everything has got to be at one hundred percent. I just hope Radek does not hurt himself scooping snow."
Other day one snowball fights include Andrew MacDonald and Eric Boulton of Team Martimes versus Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey of Team Western Canada. And in the late match, Team Canada II (Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck) takes on Team Understands French (Kevin Poulin, Calvin de Haan).
Hamonic recently returned to the Islanders from a upper body injury and wasn't sure if he'd be able to pack snowballs and fling them at his teammates. But after a few days of rest, he says he's back up to speed.
"The arm feels good and my hands are ready for the cold snow," said Hamonic. "I'm so excited, I'll probably break a few windows."
Fortunately, weather reports are predicting snow for the rest of the year on the East Coast, so conditions in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot should be ideal for a highly competitive snowball fight.
Eight two-man teams will compete in a three-game round robin tournament with the group winners advancing to the semi-finals. The two teams with the best records will also move on. The winners of those games will play each other in the finals for the gold and silver medals.
A bronze medal game will be played the next day behind the Long Island Marriott adjacent to Nassau Coliseum.
The field was originally expected to be 10 teams, but two had to be disqualified. Team Denmark will miss the tournament as captain Frans Nielsen recovers from a broken hand suffered in the Islanders' February 7th game against Colorado. And Team Slovakia captain Lubomir Visnovsky was denied participation by Islanders GM Garth Snow, who cited a concern for the defenseman's long-term health.
Although disappointed, Visnovsky agreed with the team's decision to not have his head be the target of snowballs thrown by very strong men 10 years his junior.
"I feel like I can play, but I stay out," Visnovsky said. "Maybe when everyone comes back from Sochi, I'll start a food fight or throw eggs at the guys as they get off the team bus. Unless Garth won't let me do that, either."
Islanders returning from Sochi are not eligible for the snowball fight. That means Austrian teammates Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner can't play, nor can John Tavares, who will remain with Team Canada despite being injured and ruled out for the rest of the Olympics.
"We wanted to bring Johnny back as soon as we heard he was out for the last two games," Okposo said. "But he's in bad shape and wants to stay with the Canadians for now. So he'll be coaching us and giving us tips via Skype."
|TEAM MINNESOTA||Kyle Okposo||Brock Nelson|
|TEAM NEW ENGLAND||Colin McDonald||Brian Strait|
|TEAM CANADA||Josh Bailey||Matt Martin|
|TEAM EASTERN BLOC||Evgeni Nabokov||Radek Martinek|
|TEAM MARITIMES||Andrew MacDonald||Eric Boulton|
|TEAM CANADA II||Casey Cizikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|TEAM WESTERN CANADA||Travis Hamonic||Thomas Hickey|
|TEAM UNDERSTANDS FRENCH||Kevin Poulin||Calvin deHaan|
|TEAM DENMARK||Frans Nielsen||(injured)|
|TEAM SLOVAKIA||Lubomir Visnovsky||(declined)|
This is fake. Please don't go to Nassau Coliseum and throw snowballs at random Islanders.