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New Tradition: Alumni Night brings Islanders from different eras together

No matter when you jumped on the bandwagon, there was someone there for you.

Nice collection.

Before, during and after Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Sharks at Barclays Center, the Islanders hosted several former players as part of an Alumni Weekend celebration. The names included featured some of the most memorable players in team history: Ed Westfall, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, Mick Vukota, Steve Thomas, Mark Parrish, Petr Mika...

Wait. Who the hell is Petr Mika?

Don’t worry. I barely remembered him myself. The name sounded familiar, but I had totally forgotten his three total games as an Islander during the 1999-2000 season. If you watched them at all that year, you’d know that the best way to remember that Islanders squad might have been to forget them completely.

And yet there was Petr Mika, being introduced at Alumni Night along with everyone else, from Stanley Cup champions to people’s champions and everyone in-between.

How did he end up there? Well another Islanders legend introduced that night - The Hockey Maven himself, Stan Fischler - found out. Turns out, it was Islanders Pride all along.

Yet it was Mika who made heads turn because he was the Islanders attendee who had played the fewest games. He kept insisting it was worth the flight from Europe.

“I felt I had to come over,” said Mika, “because putting on an Islanders jersey for my first game was one of the greatest days of my life — hockey or otherwise.

“The fact that I only played three games hardly mattered. The important thing was that I made it to the NHL. Whether it was three or three hundred games, it was a thrill and that’s why I wanted to be with the boys.”

Before he shook hands and met with Islanders fans on the Long Island Railroad on the way to Saturday’s game, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky hosted the players at the swanky Andaz Wall Street Hotel (dude, $15 for a shareable grilled cheese sandwich? For that much, you ought to take the whole cow home).

Stan gets some fun stories from the folks in attendance, seeing as he was around them all as they passed through Long Island. Bob Nystrom is still jacked, Dave Scatchard had a big smile on his face and Butch Goring has a sense of humor about his days as both a player on a great team and a coach on a bad one. The presence of Al Arbour, not surprisingly, loomed large over many of his former players.

The players from different eras were able to meet and re-connect or, in some cases, connect for the first time. Near the end of this video posted by the team, Trottier talks about what a treat it is for his generation of players to meet the guys that came after them.

By all accounts, everyone had a blast and was thankful to Ledecky and the team for setting it up. The original idea came from three former players - Trottier, Pat Flatley and Glenn Healy - and Ledecky wasted no time in saying yes to them.

"The sincerity of the ownership group is beyond words," Mick Vukota, a fan favorite from 1987-97, said. "They've extended it to every player, not just players that had 10 year careers, they want everybody to be involved with this organization.

And even more praise and thanks:

There were a few notable absences, unfortunately. Denis Potvin was probably working for the Panthers that night, Mike Bossy wasn’t there, either. We thought John Tonelli would make a triumphant return, but we’ll have to keep waiting. But even guys who weren’t there liked the idea.

There’s been a concerted effort on the part of Ledecky and Scott Malkin to re-connect with past Islanders in a way that the previous ownership did not. When they took over controlling interest in the team, Ledecky said a suite at Barclays Center will be available to all former Islanders to use whenever they want. The captains golf outing just prior to the season starting actually managed to get John Tavares to smile. The love for the franchise is still there, even if they’re concerned about its future. Many ex-Islanders have made Long Island their home for a reason and want the team to continue playing in the area.

The names of who and who wasn’t at Saturday’s Alumni Night don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It was about coming together and celebrating their shared experience as Islanders, whether it was for four Stanley Cups or three random games in a miserable season. Their time in this jersey was special to them.

"I still feel like I'm riding the coattails of the guys that created this organization in the late 70s early 80s, the four Cups," Parrish said. "To see Trottier, Potvin, Gillies, Nystrom and all these guys that I grew up idolizing and to be in this kind of atmosphere and share this kind of moment with them, it's pretty special."

As it does for fans, being an Islander means different things to different players. And for one weekend, everyone got to enjoy the era that meant the most to them. Here’s to letting this tradition grow, too.