The New York Islanders held the first day of on-ice activities at Training Camp on Thursday, and did so in style, hosting the first professional hockey event at Barclays Center. On a day that started with a Long Island Railroad trip from Garden City to the heart of Brooklyn, first-year professional Joey Diamond felt right at home. After all, that’s exactly where the Long Beach, NY, native was.
Diamond, a University of Maine product, signed an amateur tryout contract (ATO) with Bridgeport in late March before agreeing to an entry-level deal with the Islanders for 2013-14. Diamond has the chance to become one of the few professional hockey players who get to play for their lifelong favorite team.
“It’s kind of been a dream come true for me,” Diamond said. “Last year was really exciting for Islanders fans and obviously being a part of the organization now is something really special.“
Diamond, 24, came to the Islanders organization after a four-year career at Maine. He proved himself to be both an offensive and physical force during his time with the Black Bears, scoring 104 points (59 goals, 45 assists) and totaling 467 penalty minutes in 135 games. In seven games with the Sound Tigers, Diamond had five points (two goals, three assists) and 27 penalty minutes.
“It was great,” Diamond said of his brief professional stint last season. “Now I know what I’m going into this year. That was one thing that I really wanted to happen. I wanted to get a few games under my belt coming into this year and I was fortunate enough to have that happen.”
Islanders prospects had been skating at Nassau Coliseum for the last week, but Thursday marked the first time the veterans skated as a team. For Diamond, that made today’s practice all the more surreal.
“I’ve been an Islanders fan my whole life,” Diamond said. “So being able to come here and see those familiar faces that I grew up watching was very special.”
Sound Tigers head coach Scott Pellerin was on the ice with one of the two groups at practice Thursday and was happy with the way things went.
“I think it’s very important to have all the guys out on the ice together,” Pellerin said. “Obviously the rookies have been at it for a little bit, but it’s good to see the vets out here, too, as we prepare for the preseason.”
The players will return to Long Island on Friday, but Diamond knows that his journey as a hockey player is just beginning.
“Today was pretty cool,” Diamond said. “But it doesn’t get any easier from here. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can and trying to get better every day. I think I know what’s ahead for me but I’m also prepared for the hard work that comes with it.”
If the hard work pays off, Diamond will be back on the Barclays Center ice when the Islanders return to Brooklyn for their regular season debut.