Search Results for: Damian Mikrut


The Last True Family Man

One of the quotes from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that always stuck with me – not because it was funny but because it actually meant something to me, was when Clark Griswold’s co-worker sees the swimming pool model on Clark’s desk and tells Clark, “you’re the last true family man.”

In today’s society where both parents work just to scrape by, it’s our children who suffer the most. The deterioration of our society started when women joined the workforce instead of staying home to raise our children. This is not an article blasting women for wanting more. It just takes two incomes in order to raise a family out of poverty in this day and age. Because of this, strangers are now raising our children – whether it be school or daycare, instead of us parents.

The new family dinners are spent in front of the television instead of around the kitchen table discussing how everybody’s day went. It is important to make time for ourselves but also for our wives and children too. Most guys make fun of other guys when they say they love their wives but I really do and I am not ashamed to say it.

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Image Credit: dinosaurdracula.com

When I was growing up on suburban Long Island, my Mom was a stay at home mom who constantly helped us with our homework, carefully packed our lunches each day and made sure our clothes were neat and ironed for school. My dad worked as an aircraft mechanic who still found the time to coach our little league baseball teams. My dad had to travel sometimes two and half hours to work each way through Long Island traffic on the Long Island Expressway yet I complain when I have to sit in traffic for 45 minutes in Buffalo. My dad died when I was 15 and my brothers and I know how important it is to be there for our children and to make time for them – even if it is only 15 minutes a day.

Currently I work at a job which requires me to be there at least 50 hours or more a week. By the time I get home after being on my feet for ten plus hours the last thing I want to do is take a walk in the park, or play catch with my son, or watch my daughter show me her new dance routine she learned this week in dance class. But I make time to do so. That’s because I signed up to be a parent, and part of the contract of being a parent is to put yourself second and put your kids first. Don’t get me wrong sometimes I get lazy like everyone else and after work I put on a television program or a movie for the kids so I can relax but this cannot become the norm. Nothing feels better than spending time with family, and I am almost always rewarded with knowing something more about my children.

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Image Credit: clarkgriswoldcollection.com

Over the years my family has gotten smaller, especially with everyone moving away. My middle brother lives with my Mom in Virginia and my youngest brother lives in Arizona. I see my Mom and middle brother once, maybe twice a year and I haven’t seen my youngest brother since I got married in 2008.

Recently I was asked to coach my son and daughter’s tee ball team. My first thought went to my job and whether or not I would have the time to work around my schedule and coach a team. My second thought was screw it, they would have to understand, this is for my family. Besides the tee ball season is only two short months. So far I have enjoyed four practices and two games, and have throughly loved spending quality time with both of my children. What is the point of earning money if we don’t have time to enjoy our family with the money we earn? We as men need to make time for ourselves but more importantly we need to step up as fathers and husbands, because that is where the true joy in life comes from.

I hope when my kids get older they will know how proud I am of all their accomplishments, however small they may be. I hope they will remember me as fair and I hope they will understand why I had to discipline them at times. But most of all, I want them to know that I loved being a Dad and I loved my family most of all.

 

 

– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19

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One Last Rodeo

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Up to this point in my writing career, never has an article been this emotional to me. I literally had to stop writing half a dozen times just to wipe tears out of my eyes. This piece has been hard to write but I wanted to share what the Islanders and Nassau Coliseum have meant to me. When the New York Islanders announced on October 24, 2012 that they were moving to Brooklyn I knew I would have to see one last game at Nassau Coliseum before it closed its doors for good to hockey. Both my parents were huge Islander fans after moving to Long Island in 1976. I came two years later in 1978 and two years after that the Islanders would embark on one of the greatest dominate runs in sports history. During that historic run the coliseum would be dubbed Fort Never Lose, as the New York Islanders players and fans would make it hell for opposing teams to win a game in their building. Now forward 13 years to the year 1993 when I officially became a fan of the New York Islanders.

Christmas of 1992 was a special year because it seemed like everyone got a pair of rollerblades. My two brothers Shaun and Ryan and I got a pair as well as many of our other friends around the neighborhood of Mastic, New York situated near the southern fork of Long Island. The next logical step was to get a couple of hockey sticks and a ball and shoot into a net. We set up shop in our friend Leo’s driveway and an entrepreneurial neighbor sold us some used goalie equipment for 20 dollars to make the experience better. Later we moved to the adjacent street as we did more damage than a hail storm on Leo’s parent’s garage door. We all started to watch hockey on television at friends’ houses who had cable, you know to get pointers on how to play better and emulate the players of the day. Something special started to happen to the New York Islanders late in the 1992-93 season.

The 1992-93 Islanders had the hard hitting Darius Kasparaitis who was Shaun’s favorite player. Pierre Turgeon had an incredible season notching 58 goals and 132 points. The team boasted 4 30-goal scorers, and was the least penalized team during the regular season. Still they just managed to squeak into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and not many experts gave them a chance against the Washington Capitals in the first round best of seven. “Chicken Parm” Ray Ferraro nicknamed Chicken Parm because that was what he ate before every hockey game became the hero in the series by scoring clutch goal after clutch goal. The Islanders would not be denied in overtime either taking all three games that went the extra distance. Everything was looking up for the Islanders until Dale Hunter crosschecked Turgeon from behind moments after Turgeon scored to put the game and the series out of reach for Washington. Hunter would receive a 21-game suspension for the hit.

Next up the Islanders would face the Two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As game seven of this series approached the whole island was abuzz about the Islanders. I remember how excited my parents were and how we had to go to the local sports bar for dinner that night to be out with fellow fans and watch the game. Also at that same sports bar were Leo’s parents just a few table over from us. The night was a blur for me, just images after all these years. I can remember Rich Pilon of the Islanders hitting Kevin Stevens of the Penquins. Stevens got knocked out cold and hit the ice face first breaking most of his face, at least I thought so. We had to leave the bar after the third period was over because my Dad had to catch the Long Island Railroad to work that night. As we sat in the parking lot by the Mastic Train Station we heard over the car radio David Volek score to send the Islanders to the Eastern Conference Finals that year in 1993. The excitement in the car that night was amazing and one of the lasting final memories of my Dad as he died less than four months later that year.

Up to this point I had never been to an actual live professional hockey game. After my Dad died my Mom did her best to raise three rough and tumble boys. One of the special treats we got for being good was to go to an Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum. It was an almost 2 hour ride through rough traffic to get to the coliseum, and it wasn’t very special to look at from the outside. But once inside the magic happened. Mostly we sat in the top 300 level section. This section was unique because of the after-market luxury boxes added in. The bottoms of the luxury boxes hung so low you could pound on them, and pound on them we did after every Islanders goal. In fact years later I brought my wife to her first Islanders game. We sat in the top row with about five of my good friends. When the Islanders scored in that game, I believe we scared the life out of her.

My biggest Coliseum memories aren’t necessarily about any big Islander moments but more about the times I got to hang out with the closest of my friends and watch the greatest game unfold. I started to go to games religiously when the tickets became affordable and my friends and I got our drivers licenses. Unfortunately this was also around the dark time of the New York Islanders history. My friends and I would buy tickets for 10 dollars in the 300 section and by the end of the first period we were sitting near the glass. But what other hockey arena could we get away with this. We could hear the players yelling at each other. My friends and I had to endure those horrible fishsticks jerseys and the owner that wasn’t John Spano. If you don’t know who John Spano is just watch the documentary Big Shot on Netflix. It was horrible going to the lunchroom at school during the 90’s and hearing it from those awful Rangers fans especially after they won the cup in 1994. No more 1940 chants at the coliseum, bummer.

In 1998 my family and I moved off of Long Island and I eventually settled into Buffalo. My first hockey game in Buffalo I was impressed with the outside and lobby area of then Marine Midland Arena. It had all the bells and whistles but once you got inside the arena I felt swallowed up. The place was cavernous and the cheers just seemed to get lost in the rafters. The Sabres were very good when I first moved to Buffalo, eventually reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1999 before losing to the Dallas Stars, but the arena was nowhere near as loud or as fun as Nassau Coliseum.

Living in Buffalo and starting my own family, gave me very little time to visit the Coliseum I once called home at least 2-3 times a month during the regular season. I got down to see a game every couple of years but when the last season was announced I knew I had to go one last time. I originally planned for an early season game against Pittsburgh but just decided to look at ticket prices for the last game in early October. Good tickets were around 100-150 each at the time. I wanted my whole family to be a part of this experience. Never again will a hockey building sound this loud and this crazy. I got seven tickets in section 119 about five rows up in the corner of the building where the Islanders players exit and enter the ice. My brother Shaun and his son Aiden came with my Mom. My wife Lauri and my two kids Ethan and Quinn came with me. We got a room at the Marriott across the street.

At 2pm gameday we arrived and quickly unpacked and started to go around the parking lot to look at all the tailgating that had been taking place since as early as 8am. All of us stopped to take pictures outside of the coliseum. We talked with some fans about the team and the upcoming playoffs. Had to visit the team store for some Islanders swag. Ate lunch at Champions inside the Marriott where Lets Go Islanders chants broke out about every five minutes. At 5:30pm they let us into the bottom part of the coliseum and my brother and I had a beer at Doolins Pub. We opted for the Barn Rocker, the official beer of the Islanders this last season from Oyster Bay Brewing Company. At 6pm they let us upstairs. Our kids got handpicked to be on the high five line when the New York Islanders players came out of their locker room. I was super jealous. Finally at 6:45pm the pregame ceremonies began.

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It started with bagpipers that were part of the original Islanders Stanley Cup parade. Then a video tribute to the years at the coliseum. It was very hard to hold back tears as I remembered all the good times I had in this building as a kid. Finally the main attraction started. The Lets Go Islanders chants were deafening. The chants from the 329 section were loud. Fans had all types of Islanders clothes and jerseys throughout the ages. I had a 90 year old man in front of me who lost his voice, and a 10 year old kid behind me who was trying to take in all in. Our section was fun and I like to think I was the ringleader in the high fives after the Islanders scored. Sadly though the Islanders blew 3-1 and 4-3 leads and eventually lost in a shootout to the Columbus Bluejackets. I was so looking forward to the victory lap around the coliseum that is customary during playoffs wins but would probably have been ok for the last regular season game at the coliseum. My family and I sat stunned after the game as the Islanders lost home ice advantage in their series against the Washington Capitals. After the shock of what just took place evaporated, we stood up looked into the rafters on last time at all those glorious banners. As I reached the final step on the staircase upon exiting the playing area, I turned one last time waved and said goodbye old friend.

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These fans were in the opposite corner from where my family sat

The walk back to our hotel that night was a somber one. It felt like someone had died, and I guess in part something had died, hockey in Nassau County. The Islanders will be moving to Brooklyn in one of those state of the art arenas, where the noise isn’t generated by the fans but pumped in. As the last old barn of hockey closes its doors soon, so does the door close on the intimidating nature of hockey buildings. I wish my Islanders the best in Brooklyn and I will try to catch a game in the coming years there but I will always hold dear the memories that were built at that old barn on Hempstead Turnpike. We left the Marriott at 8am the next morning. In the parking lot we ran into Scott Hartnell of Columbus and I just shook my head and he of course just smiled. The family loaded up in the minivan and as we were leaving the parking lot I had to hit my horn five quick times to Lets Go Islanders one last time.

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– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19

 

Dieting is for Suckers!

Sorry I’ve disappeared for so long. Since my hernia surgery in early December of last year I have put on considerable weight – even for my standards. These past couple of months I have tried to lose this weight in many different ways. Like they always say, it is way too easy to put on ten pounds and damn near impossible to get rid of two pounds. My quest has taken me to the gym, playing roller hockey for the first time in almost two decades, and trying to run around the neighborhood in search of weight loss. About the only thing I accomplished was hurting my body more. I am starting to reconsider getting in shape and just dealing with the horrible sad body I have left while I can still walk and function properly.

I was trying not to sit around the computer, trolling the internet, and adding my comments to different message boards I frequent. I was also trying to cut down on my viewing time on Netflix. It is so addictive watching all those shows I missed over the years, and who can say no to just one more episode? I was still keeping up with the hockey season but not drinking a six pack of beer or more while watching a game. All of this was done with the intention of cutting down inches on my waistline. There are rows of shirts in my closet that no longer fit my protruding belly.

Now I am not quite this bad yet!

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Image Credit: static.rcgroups.net

The gym seemed like the logical first solution. Unfortunately it was right after the New Year and every last person in Buffalo had the same idea to lose weight this year. The wait to get on a treadmill was longer than how long I could last on one before I was huffing and puffing about to have a heart attack. Because of the hernia surgery I thought best not to lift anything quite yet. So was I really committed to the gym, probably not?

However, when I was younger I was always committed to organized sports. Sports always kept me in great shape. It is always easier to get in shape when you have other people working hard alongside you. I already was on a bowling team, but let’s face it, bowling doesn’t quite cut it for a physical sport unless you are at the professional level. My 180 average falls just a little bit short to qualify. Plus I believe while playing a sport you should probably at least sweat. Between the salty foods and the couple of beers I have during bowling, whatever calories I am burning off while rolling a ball down a lane I am putting right back on with the food and beer I am consuming.

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Image Credit: hockeypants.com

A friend of mine started hinting around at work about starting a hockey team. This definitely peaked my interest as I used to play almost every afternoon as a kid after school. We paid to have custom jerseys made and I had to buy all new equipment as mine was all gone over the years. In the first game I twisted my ankle and in the second game I twisted my knee. We lost by a combined score of 38-2 in those two games. Well, at least we were the best dressed hockey team – we just didn’t have the skills to match. Despite the pounding the team has taken, it’s a lot of fun. I haven’t noticed much weight loss though.

Finally, I tried to start running around the neighborhood now that the weather was breaking in snowy Buffalo. The twisted ankle and twisted knee made this difficult but I plunged forward. Still no weight loss. Now I know what you are thinking. I have changed a lot in my lifestyle except my diet. But if I can’t eat what I want to eat, there just is no point in living anymore is there? Of course I jest, but seriously I don’t want to go on a diet. Aren’t there any other solutions? A fat man has to eat!

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Image Credit: likethedew.com

 

 

– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19

Sabres Tank

Are Last Week’s Trades Good Enough for the Sabres to Land Connor McDavid?

tankWatch out NHL teams the Buffalo tank is rolling through your town next!

The tank wasn’t happening fast enough for the upper management of the Buffalo Sabres this past week. The Sabres GM Tim Murray sent defenseman Tyler Myers, forwards Drew Stafford and Joel Armia, and the rights to Brendan Lemieux and the latest of the three first-round picks in 2015 that Buffalo processes. Coming back Buffalo’s way is the much maligned and arrogant forward Evander Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian, and college goaltender Jason Kasdorf. Who the bigger victor will be in this trade won’t be determined for at least a couple seasons, especially since Kane will not play for Buffalo after having season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.

Many experts believe the preeminent player in this deal will be Evander Kane but I believe it will be Tyler Myers. Myers reminds me of my days watching a young Chara skate around the coliseum ice on Long Island. Like Chara, Myers would have never developed into his full potential with the Sabres. Many of the Buffalo fans ran him out of town and for good reasons. Myers was lax in front of the net and never seemed to have a physical edge to his game. In his first couple of seasons with the Islanders, Chara was also soft in front of the net and didn’t seem to be comfortable in his own body. Many Islanders fans thought he was just too damn tall to play the game. The Big Z also lunged at pucks with his stick instead of using his enormous body. Myer’s young career has definitely modeled Chara’s first few seasons in the league. A new change of address for Myers in Winnipeg will be just what the doctor ordered. With a better team that has had some success and a mentor in Dustin Byfuglien, Myers should develop into a defenseman the likes of Chara.

charaIt took years and a new address for Zdeno Chara to become a Hall of Famer Defenseman

What Buffalo gets back in the trade is a talented left wing in Evander Kane. Sabres fans will have to wait till next season to see Kane lace up the skates for his new team. Evander is a gifted young player but his off-ice exploits have been well documented such as doing pushups on stacks of money. In the age of social media, there is no place to hide from the bad choices we make. I know I wouldn’t want everybody seeing the exploits I got into as a young twenty-something. But this is the age we live in now and people, particularly young adults, need to watch what they post online. Hockey experts alike seem to harp on the personality or the character of a player instead of the raw talent the player brings to the game. Character is built through experience particularly by playing alongside veteran players. Buffalo does have some of those experienced players in Gionta, Moulson, and Stewart who could provide leadership to Kane if these players stick around long enough and into next season.

dumbassJust one of a few dumb pictures Kane has posted on social media

This huge blockbuster trade could help either team down the road in the future, and I agree with GM Tim Murray pulling the trigger, however the trade that leaves me scratching my head is the Enroth deal. I was at the game on Tuesday and saw Enroth almost steal two points against Ottawa. Enroth, albeit small, was a solid goaltender for a struggling Sabres team. If the Sabres were going to trade him I thought they would get more than Anders Lindback in return. Lindback and current Buffalo goaltender Neuvirth are now left to play out the string to see who can take the starting job. Enroth could have provided solid goaltending to a contending team in need of a quality backup. I find it hard to believe this was the best return on Enroth the Sabres could get. With Enroth gone the full tank is now on for Connor McDavid, who will be the top pick come the draft in Sunrise, Florida this summer.

Will the Sabres end up with Connor McDavid? There are a handful of teams in the mix, such as Edmonton, Arizona, Carolina, Colorado and most recently Toronto, who can’t seem to beat a pee wee team all of a sudden. The last time a player of this magnitude came up in the draft was Sidney Crosby and somehow the Pittsburgh Penguins won the draft that year. Do I believe the Sabres will win the draft? Living in Buffalo these past 18 years has turned me into a pessimist. The Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, the No Goal result in 1999 against the Dallas Stars, and in 2007 it seemed like every defenseman got hurt before eventually losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Carolina Hurricanes. So what do I think? No they won’t get McDavid. McDavid is going to a bigger NHL market team such as Colorado or Toronto. I am not ruling Buffalo out but I think it would have to take another miracle on ice.

domnewI hope the Buffalo Sabres can reverse their fortunes and land Connor McDavid

– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19

They Weren’t Kidding, Youth Really is Wasted on the Young

 

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As I sit here writing this article with my foot throbbing from the gout I developed this past June, and my hernia scar slightly draining from the surgery I had to undergo just before Christmas I finally understand the true meaning behind the saying “youth is wasted on the young”. Although wiser and battle tested, my body is not as strong and it takes longer to recover after an injury, yet I am still three years shy of my fortieth birthday. I have always taken the approach if you aren’t going to commit fully to something why bother doing anything at all. I learned my work ethic from my grandfather who was forced to be the sole breadwinner in his family at the tender age of 15. Sometimes he worked three jobs to support his family and I always took comfort I had that same drive to get ahead in life. It wasn’t a banner year as far as my health was concerned and I am looking forward to much healthier and safer 2015. Life used to be a lot easier before all the aches and pains. My kids have also caused me to age to dramatically. Now I am not saying I would want to go back to my single life but I did have more free time for myself. Let’s compare.

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The most dramatically impacted aspect of my life is the amount of sleep I get each night. I used to never worry about anything, now I seem to sweat every little detail throughout the day. It’s hard to fall asleep quickly when you have the entire day playing through your head and you are nerve-wracking about having to pay the mortgage next week, I get that. I remember the worry-free days when I used to sleep in till two or three in the afternoon after staying out till 4am. At present if I am up and the clock strikes one am I start to get anxiety. Seriously though I have learned that nothing really productive does happen after midnight. Currently sleeping in for me is between eight and nine am or whenever the kids discover I am still in my bed. Faking that I was asleep used to buy me another half hour or so but they quickly discovered my ruse. I have two kids, a daughter age 5 and a son age 4. Experts say kids their age should sleep between 11 and 13 hours a day. Ha! My kids tuck me into bed at ten pm and then get up when they hear the water running in the shower at 5am. How is this even possible, are they even human?

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It is getting harder to maintain a social life. The limited time I do hang out with friends at a bar or restaurant I need at least a couple of days to recover from the hangover. The days of drinking a twelve pack of beer and still getting up for work in the morning are long forgotten. Nowadays if I have four or five I need the whole next day just to recover. And I used to be a cheap drunk too. Back in the day I could fill up on the likes of Rolling Rock, Bud Light, Labatt Blue to get a buzz. Being a beer snob, the cheap swill just doesn’t cut it anymore. I also have to watch what I drink so the gout doesn’t come back full force.

Growing up in the suburbs I used to play one of the four major sports every single day after school. I was in great shape too, not an ounce of fat on me, but unfortunately not much muscle either. Basically I was a lanky teenager but I would take that over the fifty pound gut I have to carry around with my every day now. My size large t-shirts are just a little bit snugger fitting around the mid-section today. The only sport I currently play is bowling. I mean who could pass up a sport where drinking is almost as important as rolling the ball down the lane. I bowl in a men’s over 30 league every Thursday. Bowling and being overweight is what contributed to the hernia this past November. My friend Kyle wanted me to play ice hockey with him, which I would love to do but I am afraid I might cause more serious damage to my already deteriorating body. Not being able to play sports is what contributed to my waistline growing. My frequent trips to the gym prior to having kids are now down to 1-2 times a week if I am lucky, just to maintain this shitty excuse of a body. If I eat one donut I can feel my waistline growing and the acid reflux building. Yes I have acid reflux too!

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I long for the days I could eat shit, play video games for hours, and listen to music with my headphones on in my bedroom till I fell asleep. I love my family but somewhere along the line you lose touch with doing things for yourself and you do everything for your kids. That’s what you are supposed to do and I don’t regret it. I just hope my body can keep with them. It sucks getting old. I wish I didn’t have to do it. However, I am lucky in one regard of the aging process. I kept all of my hair. True it may be somewhat grey and thinning but it’s all there and it’s all mine. You always have to find that silver lining.

 

– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19

 

Who Would of Thunk It? The New York Islanders are Tops in Metro Division at the All-Star Break

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I have been an Islander fan since the beginning of the 1992-93 season. If you told me before the season that the Isles would be the top team in the metro and only one point behind Tampa Bay for top team in the East, I probably would have asked you to pinch me. But here we are! Now I already knew this team was better than the 79 point finish they had last season. The Islanders were held together the previous season with an AHL defense and a 38 year old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, whose best playing days were certainly behind him. I respected Nabokov’s time here – he brought calmness and leadership to a very young and inexperienced locker room. The season was already down the drain by the time Islanders captain John Tavares went down with a torn MCL and torn meniscus in his knee suffered during the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It was very clear after last season the Islanders could score goals, and at times in bunches, but would they be able to keep the puck out of their own net?

Islanders General Manager Garth Snow first had to find a true number one goaltender. Since the Islanders were weak in the goaltending department in their own farm system, Snow had to look elsewhere to find his guy. In the past it had been impossible to woo any top free agents to come to Long Island mainly because the Islanders play in the oldest building in the NHL and prior to last season nobody knew where the Islanders would be playing in the future, whether it would be Kansas City or Quebec. This year we know with certainty the Islanders are staying on Long Island, albeit in Brooklyn, and they have a new home in the state of the art Barclays Center. Still Snow had to make a big splash to get his number one spot. On May 1, 2014 the Islanders sent a fourth round pick to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Jaroslav Halak. Only two shorts months later Halak was due to become an unrestricted free agent. It took Snow 22 days to get Halak to ink a four year, $18 million contract. Goaltending, check.

A few short weeks before the 2014-15 season was to begin, the Islanders still looked very weak on the back end of the ice. A better, younger goaltender in Halak was going to make a difference and getting Visnovsky back from injury was a plus also. Visnovsky was injured most of the 2013-14 season and was limited to only 24 games played, but like Nabokov he was also showing a lot of miles. Then came the day that every Islanders fan will remember for a long time to come: the day that cemented Garth Snow in the hearts of every Islanders fan – October 4, 2014. The first deal I heard go down was the Johnny Boychuk deal. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Islanders acquired Boychuk from the Boston Bruins for two picks and a conditional pick. It was unbelievable to get a player that was at the peak of their career and not on the back end. He had Stanley cup playoff experience to boot, even winning a cup with Boston in 2011. I was still riding the high when the next deal was announced. We were getting Nick Leddy, the young talented defenseman from the Chicago Blackhawks. I almost hit the roof with excitement. Two great solid defenseman and both of which won Stanley Cups. In one day Garth Snow almost assured the Islanders would finally end their playoff series win drought. The Islanders haven’t won a playoff series since the first year I started watching them when they knocked out twotime defending Stanley Cup Champion the Pittsburgh Penguins in game seven on David Volek’s overtime goal in 1993. Now it will be up to Garth Snow to see if the Islanders can sign both Boychuk and Leddy to new contracts before their current contracts expire at the end of the season. Defense, check.

garth smilingGarth Snow is all smiles after looking like a genius this season

Driving the success behind this season has been the diehard fans of this once downtrodden franchise.  The fans have sold out the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum eleven times this year already and will most likely sell out most of the second half too. Put a winning team on the ice and the fans will come. What was once a hindrance to attract free agents is now pulling the current New York Islander players into its old magic and mystique. This is the last old barn in hockey. Go to a game at the Coliseum when the crowd is rocking. There is nothing that compares to it. It can get so loud you can’t hear yourself think. The fans in the uppermost sections can even touch and bang on the retro fitted luxury boxes for added noise. The current players have embraced this crazed atmosphere and they have also adopted the Yes! Yes! Yes! Chant said loudly after each Islander goal scored this season. The chant was conceived by a rabid section of the Islanders fan base called the 329 Army that sits together in section 329 at every home game at the coliseum. Insane sellout crowds, check.

Do I believe the Islanders are a legitimate Stanley Cup Contender? The jury is still out on that one. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers are nipping at their heels to take over the metro division lead. However, I believe the Islanders will end their playoff series win drought at the conclusion of this season. They still have a lot of work ahead of them to be real contenders come playoff time. First, their penalty kill is only 74.4%, tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and only ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. Their powerplay is only middle of the pack at 19.2%. Islander’s head coach Jack Capuano continues to play Halak too much and he definitely looked tired his last two starts, giving up six and four goals to the Montreal Canadians and Philadelphia Flyers respectively. It is hard to fault Capuano though as Islanders backup goaltender Chad Johnson has looked god awful this season for the team in his limited playing time.

coliseumEven with all its faults, the Coliseum will be missed

This has definitely been a season to remember for the last one at the Coliseum. I already took a second mortgage out on the house to secure my tickets for the final regular season home game and will be making the drive down from Buffalo to see it all go down. I wouldn’t miss it for the world – I had to be there. The building is magic and has already seen four Stanley Cup championship teams on Long Island. One day I hope to be part of a fifth championship and finally the team seems poised to do that in the next couple of years. But just in case, can somebody pinch me to make sure I am not dreaming?

yes chantFans celebrating after an Islander goal with the Yes, Yes, Yes Chant!

– Damian Mikrut

Follow me on Twitter: @nyislanders19