If I could sum up the afternoon today in one word, it would have to be FUN. The Islanders have set up these open houses so that everyone involved has an enjoyable experience, from what I could tell those in attendance certainly did. While I am too old to take part in the activities for the kids (BD and I thought we should have had a battle royale in the bounce castle), we had fun in other ways and got to chat with our media friends and those inside the organization.
Things got started off today with a phone call to Dee Karl (aka 7thwoman) to see where she was in the arena – we met up and waited for Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track. Following on the heels of Tom were B.D. Gallof of Hockeybuzz and his wife. With our little group complete we all caught up and started to discuss the game plan. Tom and I were selected for the 3 person panel asking questions to Weight and Bailey so we told them our questions and the divided up in search of where to go. While waiting for Corey Witt, a fan (apparently of both of our blogs too) came up to us and asked if we were the bloggers and had a nice discussion on the-yet-to-be-named coach. Garth Snow spotted Tom and I and came over to say hello (Yes, the GM knows us by face and name which was pretty cool).
Corey found us, and informed Tom, myself and Blair MacGregor (Son of Scissons on Islanders Mania) what the plan was – and gave us our questions printed out in the order we were to ask each player. He told us where to wait and that Radio Announcer Chris King would introduce us and we were to walk out on stage. This is when the nerves began for me, especially given the fact that the players were yet to be introduced by Bill Guerin. Guerin introduced Josh Bailey first, but naturally they couldn’t let the young player onto the team without a bit of hazing – so they handed him a number 4 Brett Favre Islanders jersey (much to the enjoyment of the crowd being Favre was less than a mile away at Hofstra). He then presented Bailey with his jersey and introduced him to the crowd. Doug Weight was introduced second, Weight (as we found out is extremely funny and will be a handful this season) engaged Guerin in a mock embrace and the captain put his head on his shoulder. He explained that Weight has worn the number 39 for almost his entire career, but “some other guy” on the team currently wears that number and handed him a number 93 jersey. The pair of players sat down and it was our turn to be called up.
There have not been may times where I had to walk out on a stage and speak in front of an audience. I could feel the sweat begin to bead and panic rush all over my body. I was freaked out, but decided to man up and deal with it. Tom was introduced first, noting the trip to Ottawa followed by me with the same note on the NHL Draft and then Blair.
Once seated, I looked around and actually had to find a place to look other than out at the crowd so I decided to look at the players while they were talking or the floor. Once things rolled on, it became easier as I was ignoring the fact that people actually watching this unfold. After an explanation by King we started with our questions. The following list is the order in which they were asked:
Tom Liodice to Doug Weight: What are some of the factors that brought you to sign here on Long Island?
Michael Schuerlein to Josh Bailey: We were able to take a peak into the future during prospect camp, how did it feel to be playing on a line with Okposo – a potential NHL linemate?
Blair MacGregor to Doug Weight: If you were able to take Gary Bettman’s place as Commissioner of the NHL for one day, what’s the one thing in the league you would most like to change?
Tom Liodice to Josh Bailey: What do you think of the team’s dedication to go with more of a youth-oriented base, their dedication to build though their farm system/draft and do you think that will help accelerate your chances of earning a shot at the NHL sooner, rather than later?
Michael Schuerlein to Doug Weight: Recent history has shown you to have a shoulder injury, has it healed or been repaired and will you be ready for camp in September?
Blair MacGregor to Josh Bailey: What is the most important off-ice attribute you feel you can learn from the veterans like Weight/Guerin/Sillinger, ect?
Tom Liodice to Doug Weight: What do you know about some of the younger Islanders in the organization and which ones are you looking forward to playing with this season?
Michael Schuerlein to Josh Bailey: There is a lot of focus on veteran leadership and how it influences younger players, what are some of the areas you wish to improve on and gain knowledge from the vets?
Blair MacGregor to Doug Weight: What was the Islander-Ranger rivalry like for you when you first started your career and how different do you think it’ll be now that you’re on the other side?
Unfortunately, because I was on stage I couldn’t really record the answers, but I can tell you it will be on Islanders TV and I will post the video once available. The answers from Weight in particular, are a must hear because he is a character. Not taking anything away from Bailey, he did a great job too and was very honest in his answering. He seemed to take this whole transition into a professional athlete with grace and poise and the maturity just oozes out of this kid.
After the questions from the panel, there were a few questions asked by members of the audience and the event was wrapped up. On the way to find Dee and BD, Tom and I ran into Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey (whom we have come to know during the last year) and then Chris Dey so we caught up a bit with them both. Afterwards, we found Dee and she was speaking with new Director of Communications Seth Sylvan. We all introduced ourselves and he was very outgoing and knowledgeable, and most importantly supportive of the Blog Box.
Looking back at it all, it was a great day and I had a really good time. Despite my initial discomfort with being up on stage, it was good to get the first time out of the way – hopefully it won’t be the last.