By Peter Schwartz
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There were smiles on the kids’ faces from ear to ear and there was no wiping them away. Let’s be honest. It’s not every day that you get to play a little hockey with an NHL player.READ MORE: Storm Watch: Officials Hoping To Avoid Repeat Of Ida With Preparations For Nor'easter
And this was just a toy rink with mini figures.
New York Islanders winger Kyle Okposo was at the NHL Store in Manhattan on Wednesday night for an autograph signing, as part of an OYO Sports event to unveil their brand new hockey rink sets.
The company has produced three series of NHL mini figures, but now kids can finally play with their favorite players on a rink that they can build.
“It’s awesome,” said Okposo. “I probably would have had a field day when I was a kid. It’s great. They came up with a good product and I’m happy that I can help.”
For OYO Sports, a company founded in 2011, this night was a long time coming. They already produce baseball field and football field kits for their MLB and NFL mini figures, but now they have the rinks to go along with their NHL collection.
There are two kits for their customers to choose from and they are available for all 30 NHL teams. One is a full-size “Gametime” hockey rink with room for plenty of figures, along with a ton of bells and whistles. The other is a smaller “Backyard” rink, where a player can go one-on-one with the goalie.
OYO Sports was very diligent in developing the hockey rinks. The company may have done all of the heavy lifting, but not without the help of their target consumers.
“This project has been over a year in progress,” said Shari Fabiani, the senior vice president of product and marketing for OYO Sports. “We can think of what we want, but the kids gave us a lot of feedback. It’s been amazing.”
There was a tremendous attention to detail when it came to developing these rinks, especially the full-size set. There is a scorekeeper box, penalty boxes, working Zamboni doors and nets that pop out, just like in a real hockey rink. As a matter of fact, there is a little divot on the top of the net where a small water bottle can fit.
Needless to say, the company is very happy with the final product.READ MORE: NYPD: Man Shot Inside Union Square Subway Station
“I’m ecstatic,” said Leo Torrente, a new product engineer at OYO Sports. “I’ve been working on this for over a year now. One thing that OYO really prides itself in is authenticity. With our figures, we have facial likeness so it looks like your favorite player coming to life. We definitely looked at that while building the rink.”
Okposo was all smiles throughout the event, and with good reason. In addition to interacting with fans, particularly the young ones, Okposo is a happy camper because the Islanders appear to have turned a corner with their recent play.
After a stretch where they lost five out of six games, Okposo and the Islanders took two of three on the West Coast and have won three of their last four overall, including Monday night’s 5-2 win over Arizona. The Isles find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division, just two points behind the second-place Capitals.
“I think we kind of hit our stride,” said Okposo. “I like the way that we’re playing now. I like that we’ve progressed as the season has gone on. We hit a little bit of a rough patch there, but as long as we’re getting better throughout the season, I think that’s definitely our goal.”
As the Islanders prepare for this weekend’s home-and-home series with Montreal, including a Friday tilt against the Canadiens at Barclays Center, Okposo enjoyed spending some time with the fans on Wednesday night.
After signing autographs, Okposo took some time to interact with the kids on hand and played with them, as OYO had some of their new rinks set up in the NHL Store.
Okposo got a good look at his own figures: one in the Islanders’ white jersey as part of series three, and the other a limited-edition figure featuring the new black alternate jersey.
“I’m happy with how it turned out,” said Okposo. “It looks decently like me. As long as (the kids) are having fun, then it has to be a good product.”
OYO Sports has been producing good products for kids for the last four years, but they may have developed their most impressive project to date with their NHL rinks. It was a process that took over a year to complete, but the final product has everything that a hockey fan would want.
On Tuesday night, the rinks received an official seal of approval from some very important people. The new toys received two big thumbs up from the kids, as well as an NHL player.
The OYO Sports hockey rinks are available on their website.MORE NEWS: Exclusive: CBS2 Cameras On Hand At Unannounced Security Screenings At Troubled New York City High Schools