It was a full house at Sunday night'swhich had former New York Islander stars facing off against the Kings Park/Commack Alumni Hockey Team at in Kings Park to benefit dual charities and to remember a lost teammate.
More than 1200 people turned out to watch the all-star event which brought out hockey greats such as Pat Lafontaine, Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies and Benoit Houge. Kevin Barattini, organizer of the event and one of the captains of the KPC alumni team said the event brought in more than $10,000 which will benefit the Sarah Grace Foundation for Children with Cancer and the Frank J. Rizzo Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Barattini met Marissa and Matt Weippert who lost their daughter Sarah to cancer and started the foundation, last year at a Christmas event that Barattini donated his services for.
“The turnout has been phenomenal,” said Matt Weippert. One look at this crowd and I am proud of what we all, Kevin especially, have put together…it’s amazing."
Barattini, a lifelong hockey fan and player decided to organize the large-scale charity event in September of 2010 when he lost his close friend and teammate, Frank Rizzo in a fatal car accident.
Fun and laughs were mixed in with somber moments. There was a ceremonial puck drop for Frank Rizzo and one for Sarah Grace. Tears were evident in the eyes of Ryan Rizzo, brother of Frank who was there with his fiancée Jenna, sister Lyndsay and parents.
“Just seeing all the people honoring my son is a great feeling, that they are here for my son and that my son touched them in some way,” said dad, Frank Rizzo.
American Idol Finalist, Joe Murena, a Smithtown native and American Idol finalist sang the National Amthem and Kings Park High School student Alysson Gannon sang God Bless America.
Players signed and auctioned off the jerseys they wore for the game. Esiason’s jersey received a $100 donation, but Esiason decided he wanted to keep it and offered $300 to buy it back. Sal Ferro of Allure Home Improvements and ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition fame did the same and bought his own jersey for $500.
KPC hockey gave a valiant effort, but alas were no match for the mighty men of the ice. The final score, 16-6, didn’t dampen the event. Mock fights were had, jokes were made and Barattini even managed to put one in the net.
At the conclusion of the game, the players formed a circle and saluted the crowd with their sticks. In turn, the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Barattini says he is making this an annual event. Next year the league will retire #68, Rizzo’s jersey and hang it from the rafters.
“We’re playing for both charities and to me, one of the most important things is that we’re playing for Frank,” he said.