I left my house at 9:15 am on the dot knowing I had to be at the Coliseum by 10 am. I got up at my usual time of 6am in order to do this on a beautiful summer Saturday morning. With the lack of traffic on Southern State Parkway heading West, I actually pulled into the parking lot at 9:55 am.
Woo hoo!!! I wasn’t late for a change! There weren’t that many cars there so I figured people were sleeping in and would be there by about 10:30 am. As I walked toward the security guard with my purse open, I noticed there was a crowd in the lobby behind the glass. Uh oh. Maybe I’m NOT that early after all. The line stretched well pasted the box office and down past the far entrance. I looked for a familiar face that would help me get by security since I don’t have permanent media credentials (hint hint hint!).
The SMG yellow jacket at the stairs didn’t know what a blogger was so I was lucky as hell to catch the eye of one very busy Game Ops manager. “Yes! Yes! Send her down!” he told them as he darted off to take care of so many details.
I bounded down the stairs trying not to fall butt over head in my heels. “Hi, Hi, Hi” I said quickly to everyone as I rushed into the main arena thinking I am now dreadfully late. Once inside I noticed I was quite lonely. There were no Tom, no Mike, no B.D., no Josh, and no Brad, only sales people with folders. Once again, “Uh oh.”
As I was calling Tom, Mike was calling me. Seems I beat everyone there and I live the furthest. Two points for Dee being punctual….for a change. So we stood by the entrance to the tunnel to the locker room and waited, and waited, and waited. No one came to retrieve us or point us in the right direction. We were apparently Bloggers-non-grata.
The main arena filled up quickly. What a turn out! I guess this street hockey stick promotion is working far better than any expectations. The kids just love it and they were lined up for their turn on the inflatables.
I watched a woman head straight to the merchandise table to buy a brand new Doug Weight jersey to have signed. She had to wait to pay since there were so many people already at the table. The chairs by the stage were filling up too. I guess the 10 am start wasn’t exactly a detriment.
Mike was a little under the weather and chose to stand pretty still while waiting to get the call to be part of the on stage panel discussion. I made my way around the arena to say my “hellos.”
“Kerry! You have those partial plans for me?” As I was peeking into the folder he was holding.
“No. That’s a sale, not the partial plans.” he told me as he swatted me away from his paperwork.
“Already? That was fast?” I smiled.
“Hey. I don’t waste any time.” No, he doesn’t, as he ran off from me.
I spotted Garth on the opposite side of the arena, down the visitors’ tunnel, and made my way toward him. As I got closer, I could see he had a little blue-eyed buddy with him. Once again, his son had accompanied him to work. Well, actually, he was there to see Sparky.
“Thank you SOOOO much for not taking Tortorella!” I said to Garth grabbing his arm. I meant it. His face lit up as he smiled at me, “Why? You didn’t want him?”
“NO!” I was emphatic. “Why not?” He looked at me quizzically waiting to see if I would answer him honestly. I did. I truly do not believe that John would work out well here. Not at this time. While we were chatting, a man came over, shook Garth’s hand and immediately asked, “Did you pick a coach yet? Who is it?”
“She is!” he said and started to chuckle. I played along. I don’t think he appreciated the joke.
“Soon, soon.” Garth assured the man. “I can only tell you when I make the decision; it will be the right coach for THIS team.” He was serious and adamant and I believe him. That is why he is not rushing the decision. He doesn’t want to make a mistake and I don’t think he will. As a few sources have announced, it may be down to just three candidates. However, we will just have to wait and see who gets the nod. My personal hope is that it is Paul Maurice. I think his NHL experience will placate the Dynasty Era Die-Hard fans (such as my husband and his fire buddies) and his ability to work with youth and management will make him a perfect fit on Long Island. Besides, Paul Maurice is just one hell of a class act. Garth said it indeed should be announced soon. The papers are saying as early as Tuesday. I’m hoping later. (I have dental surgery Tuesday and I don’t want to miss out. Okay, I’m selfish.)
B.D., his lovely wife and I took seats in the second row in front of the stage. I was happy to see my friend Mike from section 210 was there too. He made the trek from far further east than I did. I’m sure a lot of those attending did too. Corey Witt came by to talk to B.D. and within two minutes asked if we wanted to go to the locker room to talk to Doug Weight and Josh Bailey. Considering I thought we were going to do that earlier, I did not want to move from my seat.
“No, you go.” I pouted. (I can be such a baby sometimes.) However, in a very reassuring, somewhat direct voice I heard “Come On, DEE!” B.D. was standing already heading out. I rolled my eyes, gathered my things and followed the two of them a few feet behind. Not wishing to make it easy on me in a skirt and heels, we took the route BEHIND the inflatables, so I had to jump hurdles over the air tubes, hiking up my skirt and hoping not to trip as I struggled to keep up to them.
Once in the locker room, we were introduced to a smiling and engaging Doug Weight. Even though he must have answered the same questions repeatedly, he spoke with us at length. Brad Kurtzberg from Inside Hockey was very proud of me as I actually asked questions and didn’t puke on my shoes. I am getting better Brad, but it was mostly because I knew everyone in the room for a change and I actually came prepared.
“With the worlds’ eyes on Beijing right now, what memories do you have of your 2 terms at the Olympics?” I asked, only backtracking in speech once. (Not bad right? Topical and personal! With one little problem.)
“Three terms.” (Nice Dee. Next time use a little more than wikipedia for your data.) “Winning a Silver Medal in Salt Lake with the miserable, crazy circumstances of 9/, to go there right after that, the security… the feeling was almost surreal. As a team I remember from the ceremony to the anthem before the games, you just felt like part of this country. I was always very proud to wear the jersey but that was an amazing tournament to be part of. We competed very hard, but we just ran out of gas in the third period but we got a silver medal and that was a proud two weeks. It was a great experience, and having it in your home country, and under the circumstances, that is something I will never forget. Herb Brooks was our coach. A lot of things just fell into place. A gold medal would have made it unbelievable, but we played hard and it was a great experience.”
I didn’t know he had played for Herb Brooks. Again, NOTE TO SELF: Read a little more before you ask questions.
I DID happen to know that Mr. Weight was actually drafted by the Rangers and asked him if enough time had passed in order for him to get into the intense rivalry from THIS side of the fence.
“I think so. It’s always fun. Any place you played, whether it was two years, and it was 20 years ago, any time you go back in those buildings it automatically brings your adrenaline up and makes it a special night. Let alone when it’s the Islanders/Rangers. It’s funny to look back and I remember there were more fights in the stands than there were on the ice. I remember calling my father after the first game (and telling him) ’Oh my God! These people are NUTS!’” I assured him, we still are.
“We want to get that rivalry back, its fun. We have to play at a high level on this team and expect a lot from ourselves in this room and hopefully we can have some great games. I’ll have no problem getting up to play the Rangers. It’s always good to see Slats, my old GM from Edmonton. It’s still a competitive edge; you always want to play well in front of those guys.”
Very tongue in cheek he said “I’m guaranteeing 6 - 0.” We all laughed but I know for a fact if that was the case, there are many Islanders fans that would take that over anything else for the season.
Brad, B.D. and his brother’s video camera took over from there (check his blog, it may be posted) and Doug talked about commitment, camaraderie and chemistry. All those things we know that make a good hockey team tick. Nevertheless, he said it all starts at camp, and he is really looking forward to it.
I went out into the hallway to introduce myself to Josh Bailey that fresh faced 2008 number one Draft Pick. I can only say that he is a very focused young man. I asked him since he is one of the younger players, if he wandered the internet looking to see what people are saying about him. He said he wasn’t really that connected to the web and did not engage in chat rooms. He said he did view the Islanders site. Probably for their wonderful coverage, ITV and of course, the entertaining entries of the Blog Box. (Shameless plug for us hard working folk.)
I also asked him what his mother thought of him not heading to college. He smiled at first but then became very serious. “From the beginning I wanted to play in the OHL and the NHL and this is where this could head so that‘s what I‘m focused on right now. My focus has always been the NHL.” He was very serious. There is nothing else he wants to do.
As it was getting late, it was time to head back to our seats for the question and answer portion of the morning. That went very well and was quite entertaining. Captain Bill Guerin (yes, I said Captain as that is how Chris King announced him, so that thread about “Will Guerin Still be Captain?” can die a lonely death.) was there looking very fit to present both new players with their jerseys. Watch ITV for some of the highlights from this portion of the program including an impromptu hug from Weight for his close friend Billy. I hope that he is still hugging him come December, as Guerin was instrumental in bringing Weight to Long Island.
Even though Mike, Tom, and Blair, a poster from Islander Mania did a great job, my favorite part of the Q&A was the two children from the floor that Game Ops picked to ask questions. The two little girls in front of me were so excited about being asked, and the little boy to the right of me was more poised than most adults I have seen in that position.
While Bill Guerin signed autographs on the right side of the stage, I was amazed to see the long line of people waiting for Garth Snow’s autograph. Gee, anyone remember a line for Milbury’s autograph? Um, no. And how many other NHL GM’s would do this? Can anyone see Lou Lamarillo signing sticks and jerseys for 10 year olds? I doubt it.
I did manage to score a set of partial plan information packets. Sadly, I wasn’t issued a decoder ring so I am having a little trouble figuring out how this all works. Nevertheless, there are certainly far more plans available this season than last season, and definitely something for everyone. As soon as I can make heads or tails of it, I will stack them up against some others in the league. Those attendees who purchased yesterday were given gas cards and treated to lunch at Doolans. There were many happy campers at those tables.
After we left the arena, the Blog Box “core of four” headed to TGI to continue to chitchat. It is always great to see these guys. We never run out of things to say. Of course not. We never run out of things to write either. We just run out of time.
Additional note to self: Don't blog by the hot tub.