New York Islanders alternate captain Kyle Okposo is one of the team’s core young players. Along with captain John Tavares and Frans Nielsen, Okposo has helped the Islanders become a perennial postseason team and a legit threat in the Metropolitan Division.
Last week, Okposo stopped by the NHL Store to help unveil a new line of toy hockey rinks created by OYO Sports that work with the company’s line of NHL minifigures. Before the event, Okposo talked with SI Kids about the new OYO rink, what toys he played with as a kid, how he’s adjusted to playing in Brooklyn, and what the Islanders have to do to make another run at a Stanley Cup.
Can you tell me a little bit about your partnership with Oyo?
It’s brand new. The NHL and NHLPA (NHL Players Association) have struck a partnership with them, and they’ve done a really good job at creating a toy and a figurine that looks like the players and can move. Kids can interact with it a little bit more than your standard figurine. We’re happy to try to get some kids more involved in the game.
Why is imaginative play so important for kids today?
I think it’s really important. I remember when I was a kid growing up pretending I was Joe Sakic and my buddy was Steve Yzerman, that’s just what we did. We would go play mini sticks and do the same thing. It’s important for kids to dream big and work hard to achieve their dreams.
Do you think the figurines are a complement for all of the popular NHL video games?
I do. Obviously kids are playing a lot of video games and I was too when I was growing up, but it’s nice to play with figurines and interact that way too.
Do these toys help kids who are really interested in hockey develop their skills at all?
Yes, I mean, it’s playing with something small and if you’re hitting a puck with it you have to have some good hand-eye coordination.
At what age did you start playing hockey?
I was six. I started playing outside and just fell in love with the game very quickly.
So as you got more interested in the sport, did you have a lot of these action figures and toys?
I did. I had a lot of cards, not as many sports figurines as much as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and stuff like that.
The organization moved to Brooklyn before the start of the season. How has that transition to the Barclays Center been?
It’s been good. Definitely an adjustment period getting used to the surroundings, and the travel is a little bit different. We take the train in the morning and kind of have a coffee and chat with the guys, and then we’re in there for the whole day. We’re just getting adjusted and it’s starting to become home. We’re looking forward to a lot of successful years in there.
What are your favorite memories from playing in the Coliseum?
The playoffs, for sure. It was pretty rambunctious in there. The crowds were so electrifying and it was definitely something I’ll miss.
How is the Coliseum different from the Barclays Center?
The atmosphere is definitely different. They don’t really build rinks anymore like they used to. The Coliseum was built in 1972 and it’s tight and the roof is low and it gets loud and it’s electric. It’s different now. It’s more spacious and built so people can move around freely. But it’s a beautiful building and a great place to go to a game.
You haven’t been there long, but so far what is your favorite thing about playing in Brooklyn?
The basketball court we use for warm-ups. We all go down and shoot hoops and there are a few guys who need a little extra work down there. It’s been fun.
Has there been any talk of challenging any Nets players?
I don’t know if we could do that. We might have to arrange a hockey game, then basketball, then add a third-party game like Ping-Pong or something. We’ll see.
You guys have also been playing really well lately. Is that a reflection of a new rotation that’s forward heavy?
We’ve been playing pretty well with a lot of good forwards. We have 14 or 15 guys that can play there every night and be pretty interchangeable. We’re lucky that we have so many good players and we’re looking forward to playing well.
What do you need to make sure 2015 is successful?
We just need to keep getting better. It’s a long season. Last year, we came out and played really well early. This year, we kind of stumbled a little bit out of the gate. We just want to make sure we’re getting ready as the year goes on. It’s most important to be playing your best hockey when you’re going into the playoffs.
I know the Metropolitan Division is tough. Do you have any big games circled on the calendar right now?
Any time the Rangers come to town it’s always fun. So I think that first Rangers/Islanders game in Brooklyn will be pretty cool. It’ll be something that I’ll probably remember.
Photos: Kathy Kmonicek/AP (action), NHL (event)