You wouldn't think a kid who is shorter than the goal could teach an experienced NHL defenseman anything.
Bruno Gervais–the son of a fourth grade teacher–would be the first to disagree.
It's not unusual to see Islanders players occasionally skating with youngsters who come to learn the craft at Iceworks, the team's practice facility on Underhill Boulevard. On Sept. 1, it was Gervais who shared some of his time before an Isles optional practice.
And if not for his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame, you would've thought the 25-year-old Gervais was just one of the students.
"I did two drills today I had never done before," Gervais said. "It's fun to practice with these young guys."
Sure, getting NHL players out with kids is a home run for community relations. But Gervais said his hockey really benefits from getting back to the basics.
"There's always room for improvement," Gervais said. "It's good to work on the little details. A lot of times when the season starts you're just focusing on the system and the game you have coming up."
According to folks at Iceworks Gervais was being his normally modest self. But the youth coaches were much more willing to talk about how players like Gervais contribute to the process.
"If your dad or your coach tells you something all week long, after awhile you start to tune those voices out," said Vinny Messina, one of the program directors at Iceworks. All of a sudden a guy who's in the NHL comes in here and does the exact same things you're doing and it gives a little more credence. When guys like Bruno come in here it validates what we're trying to teach. It's a seal of approval."
Six-year-old Joseph Sciabarra has skated with Islanders like Josh Bailey in the past and enjoyed his time on the ice with Gervais.
"My mom and dad don't know that he was here," Joseph said. "I'm going to tell them when I get home."
Spending time in the community helps Gervais–a Longueuil, Quebec, Canada native who has played with the Isles since 2005–feel more at home. The day before he had visited Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. And while he doesn't live in Syosset during the season, he frequents Bagel Master enough to feel an attachment to the area.
"Everybody knows each other there, they know you, and they're so nice," Gervais said. "It's like that with everyone."