Wow – it’s been a really, really slow week in Islanders country. I never intended to go an entire week without posting, but a combination of work, being lazy and well nothing really to write about certainly contributed to things.
Wednesday night was the Islanders “Stakeholder Meeting” – an open house event that included a self guided tour of the locker room, game used equipment sales, a chance for fans to become potential season ticket holders and a thank you for current season ticket holders. Speaking at the event was Chris Dey Islanders senior vice president of sales, marketing and operations, Islanders GM Garth Snow, Head Coach Ted Nolan and a surprise guest in Islanders owner Charles Wang. Dey and Wang each spoke of the Lighthouse project and it’s progress with the town, they showed us a video on what they envision the arena and surrounding facilities to be. It looked great – hopefully the Town of Hempstead pushes things along.
Chris Dey also spoke about this seasons success of the Islanders partaking in Children’s charity’s and schools. Islanders players visited kids in hospitals and different schools throughout the year. I don’t remember the specific number, but it was said the Islanders managed to provided seating and transportation to these kids all season long – and it was a very large number of attendees.
Charles also spoke about what he felt about the season, Katie Strang had a great article in Newsday last week and quoted Charles saying the following:
“Until we get the Stanley Cup, I’m not happy and neither should you be,” Wang told the fans. Wang said he knows the team was hit hard by injuries but that no excuse could justify the collapse of a team that, before the trade deadline, was poised for the playoffs. Wang said that failure itself would not be fatal to the team, only failure to change.
Prior to Charles getting up and speaking, they showed a great video of highlights from the season set to sappy music. I happened to find myself sitting directly next to where Charles Wang, Chris Botta, Corey Witt and Garth Snow were standing. Once Botta and Witt noticed me, they busted my chops a bit as always. The significance of my seating location – I was able to witness Charles react to the video and to the reaction of the fans which was pretty interesting. I know Dee mentioned in her blog that I didn’t bring my camera, that wasn’t entirely true. I did bring a camera, just not my Canon. I was actually able to take a picture from behind Charles while he was watching the video – it was something I couldn’t pass up. Often times he was the first person to clap at the different intervals and his clapping caused the crowd around him to erupt into applause.
Garth Snow was next to get up to the podium – he started with a bunch of little one-liners and you could tell he was uncomfortable at first. Garth then went on to outline his plan for the offseason. He intends to develop from within, draft well and sprinkle in free agents come July. He felt that the team they put on ice this season they had confidence in, but injuries put any hopes of success out of the realm of possibility. He also felt that certain players just did not play up to their potential and likely wouldn’t return. He was asked about some of the prospects and mentioned that he was finishing up the details on a three year contract for 2006 draft pick and prospect Tomas Marcinko, of Slovakia. He mentioned some other prospects they hoped to have signed in the short term as well. He also spoke of what he would be looking for come draft time and showed a highlight video of some of the top prospects in the top-ten of the draft. He said he would use the top-five pick wisely and help build our prospect pool.
Ted Nolan then took the stage and spoke about what he felt went wrong, he said that he learned a bunch of things that he wanted to improve on in the future and would do everything in his power to get the power play back on track. He mentioned the team was way too stationary and needed players who would move their feet. He mentioned Garth trying to look for players that better fit their system in the off season. Ted also said that he was extremely disappointed and wanted to show Long Island that they can win a Stanley Cup.
Both Garth and Ted would next answer questions sent in by fans. As Steve Mears was reading off the questions you could almost feel the intensity of the fans enthusiasm oozing through their words. Garth and Ted did great, often times laughing as they seemed to expect these type of questions. They spoke about their relationship with each other and stressed that it was healthy, they spoke about Sean Bergenheim and what he accomplished this season, Kyle Okposo’s debut, the college signings of Trevor Smith last season as well as Hiller and Rob Hennigar. Garth said free agents don’t always come in the form of NHL free agents. Jeff Tambellini was also discussed at length – everyone wanted to know why the AHL scoring leader couldn’t have the same success in the NHL. They explained that the game is different, and certain players have a hard time transitioning their game into the big show. Ted explained that he had confidence that with a full offseason to work on his game and with an extended time with the club next season he feels Jeff would succeed.
All in all, my opinion on things like this is I could live with or without them. As a season ticket holder I thought it was a great thing that the team was so open about what they wanted to accomplish with the lighthouse, the team and especially the draft picks we have this year. It was also good to listen to the coach and GM say that their relationship wasn’t strained – although I couldn’t really put much confidence into a crowd appeasing statement. In the end, the best part of my night was getting a game puck signed by Mike Bossy. I felt I attended this open house more so as fan than a blogger and took advantage to build my memorabilia collection. That is one thing I wish I could get more of during the season – autographed stuff.
Don’t forget, the Islanders will be having several more of these types of events throughout the summer. They will even be spreading awareness on the road in an Islanders RV complete with player appearances so be on the lookout for an Islander player in a town near you!
For more photos of the event, be sure to check out the gallery!