Since the NHL Movie Night is the Mighty Ducks - what better time to tell my favorite unrelated, yet entirely related Mighty Ducks/New York Islanders story?
When I was younger, my father used to fix computers. This is back when it took computers the size of a school bus to run basic accounting software. As it happened, Nassau Coliseum (The Islanders old home) was one of his regular accounts.
One day, I was getting ready for school, and my mom says "Hey, do you want to go to school today? Or do you want to play sick and go to work with Dad?"
Now...I was in first grade. I was about 5 or 6....and I didn't yet know what "lying" was.
So my response to my mother was "I don't want to get sick. If we tell my teacher I'm sick, and I'm not sick now, then won't I have to get sick?"
After some back and forth, and my clearly not getting the concept of "playing sick" my mother finally said "Listen - do you want to f*ckin go to work with your father today, or do you want to go to school??"
Naturally...I didn't pick school.
Then my father comes over to me and he says "Alright, we're going to a place a called Nassau Coliseum. There's a hockey team that plays there - and they're called the New York Islanders."
So I say to myself "Hmm...ok. Hockey. What do I have that's hockey related that I can wear, since now I'm not going to school?" And I go up in my bedroom, and after a few minutes, the only hockey related thing I owned was...of course - a Mighty Ducks hat.
Now, this is around '95 so they WERE actually an NHL team, but I was little and it was more about the movies than the real team.
We get to the Coliseum, my father talks to whoever he had to talk to about the work that needed to be done, I can't say I remember the person's name or title. What I do remember though, is after he finished talking with my father, he looked down and saw my Mighty Ducks hat, shook his head and said "Woah, woah, woah - we gotta fix this. Come with me."
And I looked at my dad, because, ya know - it's a stranger. My father just nodded and said "Yeah, it's ok, I have some stuff to do anyway. You'll be fine."
So I follow this person...who leads me right to the team store. He walks right over to the hats. Stops. Turns around. Pulls the Mighty Ducks hat off head with one hand, and puts an Islanders hat on my head with the other, and says "There. Much better."
Then hands me a t-shirt. A pin. One of those flag pennant things to hang on the wall. And then he leads me out of the store.
I was ecstatic!
And I remember just looking at this stuff and thinking "Wow...maybe this IS worth getting sick for?"
I guess there was a game that day, because the team was practicing on the ice. My new best friend leads me down the steps, right to the glass and says "Here. Sit down and hang out for a few." Then he walked away.
Just me, little first grader, sitting all alone in the Coliseum with the Islanders....that was pretty freakin' cool.
Then I guess the practice wrapped up, because the guys started coming off the ice. They all gave me a high five, said hi as they came off the ice towards the dressing room.
One of the players said "Hey, do you want a puck?"
Who EVER says no to a puck?
Let's be honest.
So of course I said yes, and the guy went back on the ice, and turned to me and said "Ok. Come here."
So I walked over to like the zamboni door, and I'm standin' there, and there's a bunch of pucks in the corner, and the player says "Ok, which one?" Then he says "Here - come over and pick one yourself!"
Now - I had never been ice skating before. I didn't know what the procedures were, but I was kinda worried I shouldn't go on the ice in just my sneakers. I thought it was one of those things you just don't do like crossing the line at the bowling alley.
After this player assured me it'd be ok though, I stepped on to the ice of the Coliseum, walked over, and picked up a puck.
Which was pretty cool.
Then whoever this player was, let me use is his stick and shoot a few pucks down the other end of the ice (he held the puck I planned on taking home, for safe keeping while I did) and it was one of the coolest things in the world.
And when I handed him the stick back, and he handed my puck back, I remember just standing on the ice, holding that puck, looking around a completely empty Nassau Coliseum and thinking to myself
"Yeah. This was definitely worth getting sick for."
Then, the player left though, off to the locker room I guess. I sat for a few minutes in my seat not knowing if that was the end, or just like a break. After a few minutes of nothing else happening, I got up and started walking around to find my dad.
When I finally found him, he was wrapping up the work he had to do and half turned around to ask how I was, then did a double take and said "Where the heck did you get all that stuff??"
After that day, I was an Islanders fan.
It hasn't always been easy. There were some rough times to get through as an Islanders fan - but after the experience I had, I could never abandon the team.
And as a result I've got a lot of great memories.
I was at game 6 against the Caps when the Islanders played their last home game at the Coliseum. 3 rows from the glass by face off circle on the penalty box side. And I will never forget counting down the last 10 seconds of that game, or pulling out of the Colisuem parking lot honking "Let's Go Islanders" for what would be the last time.
And when they came to Barclay's I became a Season Ticket Holder. I was there for the Game 6 Double OT when John Tavares brought tears to the eyes of just about every Islanders fan, when for the first time in 23 years the Islanders won a playoff series. I can't even watch the replay of that without getting chills, and remembering the faces & reactions of every person around me, when that puck went in.
And just a few weeks ago, almost exactly 20 years later,
I dragged my dad out of bed to go see the Stanley Cup.
As we stood in line waiting, I looked at the renovated Coliseum and at him, and while smiling asked "Did you think 20 years later you'd be standing here, waiting to see the Cup? Think you'd be in an Islanders jersey? (he used to be a Rangers fan, but I showed him the light)
Did you think that one day of letting me play sick from school would have had SUCH a big impact on my life?"
And of course not. He was just a dad who wanted to spend a day with his son, and who thought it would be a cool thing.
And yet none of that would have happened, if I hadn't worn that Mighty Ducks hat.