I live in Northeast Missouri, which is about as far from hockey country as you can get (3.5 hours from St. Louis, everywhere else is farther, and no one in the town I live in cared about the game). Naturally, my only experience with hockey was the Olympics, and I knew of Sidney Crosby, the Blackhawks, Detroit, the Blues, but that was the wealth of my knowledge.
Until the winter of 2014-15.
I forget what I was looking for on television in either December or January, probably a college basketball game, but it was not on. But I see there is an NHL game on NBCSN, and for some reason I felt compelled to see what was going on in the game. I tune in, and it's two teams I have never heard of. The New York Islanders, and unfortunately I cannot remember what the other team was. But I decided to watch it for a little bit.
And it was exciting. There were big hits, speed, and an overall amazing atmosphere that was conveyed to me through the television. The Islanders end up winning the game, and I decided, this seems like a sport that would be fun to follow.
The main issue I would run into was very few games ended up being televised to a national audience, so I followed distantly, checking in every couple of days. Then the few twitter accounts I followed involving the Islanders start mentioning a playoff match-up against the Capitals.
So I looked into it, and to my surprise, they would all be on national television. I was relatively excited.
I was not ready for what I was about to experience.
I tuned in for the first game, and the heart-attack that are the Stanley Cup Playoffs hooked me. I would be extremely excited when they scored, have a sinking feeling when the Capitals went on a power play, and yell expletives at the television when bad calls happened.
Speaking of sinking feelings, I still remember laying back in the chair I was using at the time when Kuznetsov scored the go ahead goal in game seven and realizing it was all over. But twenty minutes after the game ended, I went on Amazon and bought my first Islanders shirt, one I still wear for big games.
The next year, I bought the NHL TV package to watch games. And the season seemed to be going well, we were keeping pace in the playoffs race, but for some reason, whenever I tuned into games, it seemed we were getting outplayed entirely. This was confusing to me, how could a team look this bad and still be high in the standings?
Well I found the answer in the wonderful world of Isles Twitter, which told me of the evils of Jack Capuano and frightening names like Brian Strait and Josh Bailey. But twitter also did another great thing for me. It connected me to other Islanders fans that cared about the team, and gave me an outlet to interact with people. (I had been at this point labeled the "Hockey Guy" at my high school, a title I still wear proudly). I now run my own Islanders fan account, @IslesinMo, so I can hopefully bring new people to the game.
Then the 2015-16 playoffs happened. And there was not enough glue to sniff for any of the games.
I was entirely on the Fire Capuano train at that point, and was able to point out things that caused us issues like dump-ins vs. carry-ins, and Alan Quine getting first line minutes. But we won, and that was an amazing day, I still remember doing the Yes Yes Yes chant with the rest of the crowd from my basement in Missouri.
This last season was what really tested my patience. I would turn off games ten minutes in, only to turn them on for the third period. I could not get away. I also ended up going to my first game, when the Islanders came to St. Louis, and I have to say, it's not always fun being the guy rooting for the away team. I got a fair amount of expletives thrown my way. (But it was worth it, I got to meet a fellow fan who I later found out to be Hamonic's brother, his name is Jesse).
So even though I live an enormous distance from Long Island and have never been to New York, I still feel connected through Twitter and LHH. And it has always been people like this that I can complain about Jack Capuano with that keep me coming back.