Just Ducky: LI Native Impresses Family in Return Home

Long Island may be home to 3-Million people and feature a variety of unique communities from the Queens border to the Twin Forks. No matter how big it is, the Island is still a very close-knit region where everyone seems to root for each other. Long Island Ducks fans have long been ardent supporters of Long Island natives who have donned the black and orange uniform at Bethpage Ballpark. But Long Islanders are also big fans of those who were born here and are now making it at the highest level of their respected profession.

Kyle Palmieri is one of these “local boys done good.” A 22-year-old forward for the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League, the Smithtown native spent the first three years of his life out in East Moriches before his family moved to Montvale, New Jersey. After playing high school hockey at St Peter’s Prep and college hockey for a year at Notre Dame, Palmieri was drafted with the 26th overall selection in 2009 by the Ducks. Now, he’s in a locker room filled with legends like Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, guys he has a tremendous amount of respect for.

“It’s been awesome,” said Palmieri in front of his locker at Nassau Coliseum this past Saturday. “Since day one, those guys have been role models and act like true professionals who are guys you would want to emulate and be like. They’ve played so many years in the league, and they know all the ins and outs and what you should be doing at the rink or away from the rink. You really just want to learn as much as you can from them.”

It’s not the first time that Palmieri has been the recipient of some good advice from an older pro. He also happens to be the godson of baseball legend and Long Island Ducks co-owner/coach Bud Harrelson. And while you may think someone like Buddy has several godchildren, the 22-year-old NHLer is his one and only.

“Buddy is a true professional,” exclaimed Palmieri in an interview following the Ducks morning skate on Saturday. “Obviously being my Godfather, he had a big part of my growing up and what I was like as a kid. It was definitely cool to have a person with that experience around and help you through your childhood. I doubt he ever thought I would turn out to be a professional hockey player.”

This past week, Palmieri and his team returned to the East Coast for a couple of games against local teams. The right winger was right in the middle of the action each night, bringing family members and friends in attendance to their feet on each occasion. On Friday, December 20 against the New Jersey Devils, Palmieri assisted on a third period goal to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead, then notched his first career overtime goal with a nifty wraparound that got past Cory Schneider to give the Ducks a 3-2 win.

“It was a pretty cool experience, and it was a really fun night for me, my family and my friends,” recalled Palmieri. “It was definitely a night to remember.”

His head coach, Bruce Boudreau, added, “We talked a bit about him getting more involved in the game, and he did that. Once he got the assist on the Perrault goal, he and the team really came alive. When he moves his legs and shoots the puck, he’s a very dangerous player. A lot of people don’t know that he’s got one of the best shots in the game. I’m hoping that was a jumpstart for him.”

Here’s video of Kyle’s overtime winner:

Palmieri was at it again on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders, this time with Harrelson in attendance for the first time in his career. He assisted on Anaheim’s first period goal that tied the game at one and then scored the eventual game-winning goal at 13:44 of the third period. The tally gave Palmieri goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season and put the Ducks ahead 4-3 before they went on to a 5-3 victory. The performance left Harrelson and his family feeling great pride.

“He’s an awesome kid,” said Harrelson after the game. “Watching him grow up and into the man and athlete he is today has been very gratifying for me. To be here tonight makes us all feel wonderful about him and for him.”

Here’s video of Kyle’s game-winner against the Isles:

Despite the success that the Smithtown native is having on the ice, he never forgets his roots. Palmieri was excited for the return to Long Island and spoke passionately about his childhood following Anaheim’s morning skate on Saturday.

“I didn’t get a chance to experience playing hockey fully on Long Island, but when I was in New Jersey, we came out and played teams here a decent amount,” he reminisced. “The hockey atmosphere on the Island has grown so much, and it’s pretty cool seeing guys come up and make it from around here.”

It’s not often that you are able to grow up with a two-time World Series champion in your family, but Palmieri has been fortunate enough to have that with Harrelson as his godfather. Their relationship, though often from a distance, remains very important to both of them.

“I don’t get to see Buddy often with hockey and playing on the West Coast,” Palmieri said. “Obviously he’s real busy with the (Long Island) Ducks. We get to see each other over the holidays and sometimes in the summer. He’s been a huge inspiration to me. He’s the only professional athlete in my extended family.”

Now, though he plays for Anaheim’s Ducks, Palmieri never forgets going to watch Long Island’s Ducks play and still shows support for the team 3,000 miles away.

“When the Ducks first came to Long Island, it was a long time ago now, but I went out to a few games,” he recalled. “I have some Long Island Ducks stuff actually, but people out on the West Coast don’t really know what that is. It’s just pretty cool that we both ended up playing and coaching for the Ducks.”

Here are some photos of Kyle during the morning skate:




Here’s video of Kyle going through drills during the skate:


Posted on December 25, 2013, in Feature Articles, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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