I have been an Islander fan as long as I can remember. The Isles and the Coliseum are one year older than I. I haven't been to an Islander game in about 13 years. My last Islanders game, I attended with my wife and my then infant son prior to moving away from NY. The giveaway that night were these super bright orange winter hats. We left that game with 3 hats.
There has been a lot of water under the bridge since.
My wife and I gave birth to three more Islander fans. We now live in Wisconsin and have come back to NY to visit my mom, brother and sister and go to the final regular season Islander game at the Coliseum. My wife bought me and my 11-year old daughter tickets for my 42nd birthday. I watch every game with that daughter tucked into my left side, thus earning her the honor of the other ticket.
It so happens that my oldest, who was the infant at my last game, got last-minute tickets and is going as well with my brother. Growing up I recall my two older brothers coming back from an Islander game with puck in hand and talking about how the islanders won their 15th in a row against an old teammate (Chico Resch). I still have that puck (somehow I managed to convince/ steal it from my brothers).
Sports and being a fan are funny. Teams can have you run the broad spectrum of emotions. The Islanders have done it over the years as well as this year. Only 1 team wins the final game of the season. That leaves fans of 29 other teams disappointed but we come back for more. We get angry at the coach (I still don't understand why Calvin DeHaan is in the doghouse and google "What Did Calvin DeHaan do to deserve his lack of playing time?" to no avail) and get excited as though we are on the ice when they win with a celebratory YES! YES! YES!.
The Islanders 1st round playoff matchup is set and seems perfect. Remember, the Islanders last "run" for the Cup was ended abruptly by the Capitals when Dale Hunter's late hit put Turgeon out. It is a perfect way to end the playoff drought. This season has been fun. After all these years, we have one orange hat left and it is losing it's patch. My older 2 children fought over it, with my daughter winning rights to the hat.
Tonight I will be the man on the right side of the girl in the orange hat across the ice from my son and brother, emotions will run wild seeing the old barn rocking for potentially the last time (I have made a pact with myself that when the Islanders get to round 2, I will make another trip). I am excited that some of the younger fans get a chance to get fond playoff memories that are beyond losing in 7 to the favored Leafs in 2002, or playing the Penguins tough for 6 games in 2013.