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NHL teams, players helping hurricane victims

Hurricane Sandy Staten Island Current New York Rangers stars will be holding a clinic on Staten Island to benefit one of the area's hardest hit places. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

We'll honor Day 60 of the NHL season being held hostage by not discussing the lockout but something more important, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This is out of the headlines in most places, but it remains a real problem for many people and, thankfully, some in hockey continue to pay attention.

First, you should know that parts of New York City, Long Island and New Jersey remain without power -- 17 days after the storm, thousands of people still have none. There was massive flooding and damage that destroyed countless homes and stores. Large sections of Staten Island and the Rockaways in New York City look like war zones, as do stretches of the shoreline in New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut. Even inland, houses near the Passaic River in Newark, just blocks from the Devils' Prudential Center home, were flooded when the river rose, and there are fears that pollution from the water may have contaminated them.

Had this been a normal NHL season, the league might have been leading the way in raising relief funds and awareness about these problems. Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, for one example, have combined to donate $1 million to organizations that are helping communities devastated by the storm, and they've appealed to their fans directly via email, on their website and through social media to join the effort.

Sadly, the NHL and the NHLPA appear unable to momentarily set aside their differences to do anything similar. The league has encouraged fans to donate, but there's been no word that the NHL itself has made a donation. According to Jonathan Weatherton of the PA, the union has begun contacting minor hockey organizations with the goal of replacing damaged equipment for children whose families are in need of some help. "We encourage families who have had their children's hockey equipment damaged to reach out to the NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund for some assistance," he said in an email.

Perhaps more significantly, considering the immediate needs of the battered region, groups of players and teams have been active raising funds and collecting needed clothing, food and supplies.

On Monday, in an event that provided both material and psychological relief to a hard-hit area, over 2,000 people showed up at Nassau Coliseum to donate to the American Red Cross and Island Harvest in the lobby while the Islanders hosted a six-hour free open skate on the ice, with fans mingling with the team's coaches and staff.

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The Isles are also conducting various online auctions during the next week with proceeds going directly to the Red Cross Hurricane relief effort. Items for the auction were contributed by the Islanders, Rangers and Devils, the Brooklyn Nets, New York's Knicks, Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Jets, as well as the Bridgeport (CT) Sound Tigers, Islanders Owner Charles B. Wang, Barclays Center, Nassau Coliseum, SMG and Madison Square Garden. They include sports memorabilia and special tickets to live events. Worth checking out.

Not long after Sandy passed through, the Islanders' Sound Tigers AHL team on the north coast of the Long Island Sound, which was also badly hit by the storm, played a pair of weekend games at which they let fans in for free.

The lockout prevents NHL players from participating in functions sponsored by their teams, but a group of Rangers is traveling to the New York borough of Staten Island, where there has been extensive damage, to partner with the St. Joseph by the Sea Vikings Hockey club and conduct a hockey and skating clinic on Friday at the Staten Island Skating Pavilion. Participation in one of the two afternoon sessions will cost $75 with the proceeds supporting Hurricane Sandy victims via the Cardinal Egan Fund.

The Rangers who have lined up so far include Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Brian Boyle, Carl Hagelin and Steve Eminger. You can find more details here on The Bergen Record's Rangers Rant blog by Andrew Gross.

The Rangers' parent company, Madison Square Garden, has pledged $500,000 toward Hurricane relief, dividing its donation equally between the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and the American Red Cross. They will also be staging a benefit concert in December at the arena with major stars to be called “12-12-12 (A Concert For Sandy Relief)."

Ex-Ranger Sean Avery has spent a fair amount of time in Staten Island helping relief efforts and, as Jeff Klein blogged in The New York Times, he collaborated with brothers Casey and Dean Neistat in making these two short films of the storm and aftermath in lower Manhattan and on Staten Island.

The first video has been viewed over 1.7 million times. As the second video shows, money that Casey Neistat got for the rights to use footage in the first one was used to buy clothing for people on Staten Island.

Casey Neistat made a third film posted on YouTube last Friday of his trip out to Rockaway Beach, capturing the devastation there.

Of course, things are just as awful along the Jersey shore, and still problematic inland as well. The Devils have a "Jersey Strong" page on their website that they're using to keep area fans plugged in to a broad range of recovery information. The page also provides information on various fundraising and supply drives in northern and central New Jersey. The team is also raffling off what they are calling the Ultimate Devils Fan Experience and proceeds from that will go to the Devils Care Foundation to help rebuild New Jersey. The team will also help coordinate fundraising efforts all winter at youth hockey games throughout the area, with all players wearing "Jersey Strong" stickers on their helmets.

“We are Jersey’s team and stand by our fellow New Jerseyians.  Not just for now, but we will be there long after the cameras are gone too,” said Jeff Vanderbeek, the Devils chairman and managing partner in a statement.

On Friday night, a Devils alumni team will face off against a team of coaches from the New Jersey Colonials travel team at the Mennen Arena in Morris Township with all money going to The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund and the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry. Food pantries in New Jersey have been depleted by the storm.

John MacLean, Sergei Brylin, Ken Daneyko, Grant Marshall, Bruce Driver, Dave Barr and current Devils coach Peter DeBoer will be among those who dress for the Devils alums, while the Colonials coaches team will be augmented by DeBoer's two sons and one of Governor Chris Christie's sons. Former Devil Jim Dowd, who works for the team's Alumni Association and was a star high school player in the Jersey Shore town of Brick, rode out the storm and told the Newark Star-Ledger's Rich Chere about the experience in this story.

Admission at the door is $10 for adults and $5 with a non-perishable food item for children. The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund was founded by Governor Christie's wife, Mary Pat. Their son plays for the Colonials. More information about the game can be found in this story by Chere.

Last week, the Flyers partnered with the Salvation Army to collect donations of supplies to be sent to damaged areas and their efforts continue at three of their Flyer Zone rinks. Here's a story from the Examiner.com reprinting an email sent out by the Flyer Zones with more information. The team's ECHL affiliate in Trenton, NJ, was among the first sports organizations to collect badly needed relief supplies and here's an item from their website on that.

Also this Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation will collect donations at Consol Energy Center to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims prior to the Tour of Gymnastics Champions event at the arena.

Team efforts have ranged to the Midwest and South. Alumni of the Blues and Predators played a benefit game at the A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tennessee outside of Nashville in a game organized by former Pred Stu Grimson and ex-Blue Kelly Chase. Here's a story from The Tennessean by Josh Cooper on how they pulled the game together and a report on the contest by David Yampolsky on the Predators website.

And in Raleigh,  the Carolina Hurricanes hosted a Sandy Relief Drive with donated items sent to Staten Island. Those Hurricanes are appreciated.

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