Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Fans Meet Bailey & MacDonald

The line was wrapped nicely within the stanchions when I arrived at the Broadway Mall tonight. There were some familiar faces, those who like me, attend just about everything. But there were also a lot of younger fans there. Actually, it looked like a meeting of the Josh Bailey Fan Club. But I looked around and did find a few fans that may have been there during the dynasty years.

For instance, Norm was waiting patiently holding a hockey stick as tall as me. He also is the first person I know that has the same 14K gold logo necklace I have. He bought his in the 80s, mine is a little newer, but he remembered the jeweler’s name where he bought it. Amazing!

“How do I feel about Nino? I was hoping more for size. But I have confidence in Garth and his staff. They know what they’re doing. And that steal could be that Russian Kid. But in fee agency: Maxine Afinogenov. That’s who I want and I bothered him all last year about it. Oh, and bring Andy back. Maybe he’ll sign for less because he likes it here. And he gives us the physical presence on the ice.”

Chris and Paul had arrived at the same time I did, so they were towards the back of the line. Chris had his jersey slung over his shoulder as it was a little too hot to wear it. While they weren't able to watch the draft, they already knew how to say Nino Nieddereiter without stalling. When I asked what their hopes for a free agent were, I received the typical fan sentiment.

“I hope they can pick up someone good. Maybe a veteran.” When I asked Chris if he wanted a defenseman or a center he said “Either or.” Then Paul chimed in with “Someone who has a lot of endurance. They keep dying out in the third. “But experience and leadership is what Chris is looking for as he hopes Doug Weight is rehabbed from his surgery.

In the back of the store, Josh Bailey and Andy MacDonald were stationed at a table laden with stickers and pencils and cards and two boxes of sharpies in different colors. I watched at three girls who came together giggled and smiled while they waited to head to the table. After they had their jerseys signed, I followed them outside. When I asked Allie, Katie and Justine if Josh Bailey was their favorite player, I received a resounding “Oh my God yes!”

They’ve been Islander fans since Justine dragged them to games “Because my Dad and brother are really into it.” Katie gave her up though “She’s got a Josh Bailey shine.” Justine blushed. I told her not to worry, it was understandable. They already knew about new first rounder Nino and bad-boy Kiril and were looking forward to the prospect scrimmage.

Back inside the store, four young ladies were admiring the new John Tavares figurine
while waiting to get to the table. I couldn’t help but overhear. “I have to have this! My birthday is coming. I want this for my birthday!” The tall young woman sporting the John Tavares 91 tee shirt implored her friends. Alex’s birthday is August 24th and she LOVES John Tavares. But along with Alex was Madeline clutching her jersey and today was HER birthday. I made the suggestion that Josh should sign “Happy Birthday Madeline, From Josh.”

She loved the idea, or so I believed by the open mouth gasp I got for the suggestion. Josh was only too happy to oblige. Sadly I didn’t get the name of the other happy friend whose birthday is July 10th and will be celebrating it at the Blue & Orange Scrimmage at the Coliseum.

Once all the happy fans were done, I took a few minutes to talk to Josh and Andy some questions. Of course, I had to start with checking out Josh’s souvenir from April. Yes, that gash on his cheek is leaving a scar. “I kinda like it. I’m gonna keep it.” Josh smiled at me when I asked him if he was putting vitamin E on it. It won’t take away from his smile.

I asked their thoughts on the draft this year and whether it brings back memories of his draft experience. “I’m pretty excited from talking to Snowy and Jankowski. They’re all really excited, so that mean’s we’re excited.” Eric Cairns and the rest of the scouting staff are also very excited about this year’s selections. It was two years ago (for Josh) so it’s pretty easy to relive that moment. It’s probably one of the most exciting moments of my life, for me and my family. I’m always good to think about it.”

I asked Andy MacDonald if he felt there was too much pressure on the players who have to sit there and wait to see if their name is called. “It’s definitely tough as a player. Especially for guys that are supposed to go in the first few rounds and maybe they drop a little bit. It’s just part of the process; just something you have to go through. “

The truth is, not every player who is invited to the draft will actually be drafted by an NHL club and there are many players who have had success in the NHL who were NOT drafted as a youngster. “Just because you DON’T get drafted doesn’t mean you’re not going to make it. So, it’s exciting to go and get drafted, but there are tons of guys out there that don’t. It is nerve wracking as a player.”

Josh Bailey related the best way of looking at the draft from a player’s point of view. “The best line I was told about the draft is ‘You’re not any better of a player of worse of a player what number you’re picked. You’re the same player no matter what.’" He’s right.

As far as being a 17 year-old coming to Long Island Josh could only say “Long Island is a great place to play. Luckily, I’ve been here for two years now and I’m excited for the third year and many years to come. It’s my home now. I could never say enough good things about Long Island.”

A-Mac had some good advice. “Especially as a 17-year-old, it’s probably a little overwhelming coming to the biggest city in North America. I mean, it IS New York. But you’ve just got to play your game and go out there and do what you do. You’re not supposed to change anything when you come. You’re just supposed to do what you do that got you as far as you are.”

Yesterday was also Canada Day and Andy told me I was only the second person in the store to mention that, but since hockey fans in the USA thought of it as Free Agency day, I asked Andy if he remembered the day being exciting for him as a fan. “As a younger fan, it was a pretty cool day. You knew guys were going to go different places and as a kid you always hoped guys would go to your favorite team. Now, after playing in the league, you hope you can land a good player. It’s an exciting time. There’s a lot going on and you just take it all in.”

On this day, Josh Bailey was busy taking in meeting the members of his fan club and they all left happy.

Next player signing will be Blake Comeau on July 6th at the team store in the Sunrise Mall. On July 13th, Kyle Okposo will be at the Broadway Mall and on July 28th Jack Hillen will be in Massapequa. Mark your calendars.

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