Last week's mid-week back-to-back on the West Coast took a lot out of some New York Islanders fans. Though the team was victorious in Anaheim and Los Angeles, some of us had to stay up two, even three hours past our bed time. Poor us!
We all should be so lucky.
Tero Heikkinen, an Islanders fan from northern Finland, watches Isles games live in the middle of the night -- 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. for home games -- just hours before reporting to work in the Arctic cold. And, like every properly devout Islanders fan from afar, he's planning a pilgrimage to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum this season, where he can see a game or two at a decent hour.
We connected with Tero to learn a little of his story.
Better Late than Never
Over the years this site has introduced us to so many Islanders fans scattered about the globe; it's always a treat to hear from them and provide an avenue for them to connect with others. Tero (LHH user name: 4000milesNYIfan) is ready to do just that between Nov. 20 and Dec. 2, hoping to connect with fans and tickets as the Islanders have five home games during that span.
As an Islanders fan for 30 years, he's ready to see the Coliseum before it's too late.
"The whole range of experiences, between unforgettable glory years and bittersweet frozen memories...those 40 years are as tasteful as life itself," he says. "So I'm gonna pack my jerseys and travel the 4,000 miles to be part of the Old Barn's final season."
Heikkinen is 38 and claims to be the most avid Islanders fan in northern Finland, if not the whole country. "What can I say...most games start at 2 a.m. local time, and I can't pass on any of them," he says. "If you don't watch games from 2-5 a.m., you're not a serious supporter!"
Not that there isn't a price to pay: "To be honest, some mornings it's a little tough to start work as a forest engineer after watching an Islanders game all night long."
From Newspapers to Online Stream, and Lots of Vintage Gear
As a long distance fan for so long, Heikkinen has seen the game change, seen the club's fortunes change, and experienced first-hand how following the team from afar has changed.
"The live streams are irreplaceable for me. Back in the old days, you could only read the score from a Finnish newspaper, usually 30 hours after the game was over," he recalls. "But the roots of my fandom are still in the newspaper. As a boy, there was lots of news about the NHL and the Islanders in 1984. The reason was Finnish forward Jari Kurri playing in the Stanley Cup final. But for me, that wasn't as significant as the Islanders playing in their fifth consecutive Stanley Cup final.
"I read about that and thought, 'Hell yeah! This must be a tough team!'"
Also thanks to the advent of the web, Heikkinen has become a bit of a vintage gear hound over the years.
"I search eBay daily," he says. "Especially Islanders vintage clothes are close to my heart. I can't resist those brilliant textiles from the Islanders' brightest era!"
Operation: Old Barn
Now he's packing some of that gear to wear as he see the Isles in person for what he calls "Operation: Old Barn" for the Nov. 22 game against the Penguins, Nov. 24 against the Flyers, Nov. 26 against the Capitals, Nov. 29 against the Devils, and Dec. 2 against the Senators.
You know what to do, Islanders fans. Make it a trip he'll never forget, and show Tero a good time. Share invitations, tips and other wisdom in comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Also: Might as well use the comments below to ask for and offer tips for others who are making the pilgrimage to the Coliseum this year.)