Until this summer, Kyle Okposo's entire professional hockey career was spent with the New York Islanders organization, going all the way back to January 2008 when he left college mid-season and joined the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers after the IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.
As fans are well aware, that stretch of his career officially ended during free agency this month when he and the Isles parted ways -- with very little talk of a contract extension -- and Okposo signed a seven-year deal to join the Buffalo Sabres.
He took to The Players' Tribune to thank fans directly, and share a few personal memories about his time with the Isles (as well as signal to Sabres fans that he's coming to put down roots).
I remember hearing the noise of the crowd while we were sitting in the locker room before the game. It was shaking the building — literally shaking. The floor was bouncing and guys' suits were banging off the walls of their lockers. Nothing needed to be said before that game because we were all so jacked up to play.
That sound. That energy. I'll never forget it, it made you want to run through a wall for your fans.
In case you need a refresher, this:
Okposo had several ups and downs on his way to a forward who can command top dollar and term on this summer's free agent market. He nodded to those, too:
I'm not a perfect player. I went through some pretty rough times with my game. The Isles' fans and organization stuck by me. I'll forever be grateful for that. The organization could have easily cast me aside and gotten rid of me, but they helped me through it. When I would go to an autograph signing or an appearance during those tough times, the fans would say, "Stick with it," or "We love your game." Those things brought a smile to my face.
Read the full piece at Players' Tribune, with a little more on his roommates, his introduction to pro hockey with Bridgeport, and a few words of thanks.