Typically, I would talk about the results of the Islander home opener and provide some analysis. However, from a fan's perspective, there is a bigger story here. As we are are the initial Islander blog box writers we were all given press passes to cover the game. The passes gave us unprecedented access to the players, Islander Management, and beat writers along with a trip to the Isles locker room immediately after the game. From the perspective of a fan, the atmosphere was intoxicating, and I want to do my best to convey the experience.
First, the seating. Upon entering the arena via the media entrance, we were directed to a large table directly behind the seats in section 201. Media guides were given to all. Tall wooden chairs were provided which were similar to bar stools. Mine was precariously placed about 2 inches away from the edge of the elevated platform upon which our table was situated. One sudden move on my part and I could have been blogging from a hospital. The view, however, from this vantage point was wonderful and vastly improved from the one I would typically be able to enjoy.
I'm going to skip immediately to the end of the game as this is where the experience really gets interesting. After the final horn cemented an Islander win, we were escorted to the Islander locker room area by a woman from the Islander staff. As thousands of fans make the slow pilgrimage out of the arena like salmon we were in the unfamiliar position of going against the tide. A line of twelve bloggers with press passes attached to their necks by strings snaked its way through a third of the coliseum to finally arrive near the locker room. Islander Media Relations VP Chris Botta directed us to the room where press conferences are held.
The room may have been a converted locker room facility. Countless blue and black wires likely used by TV and media personnel lay unused in a corner of the room, and many of us joked about the fire hazard this possibly presented. There was a podium, where Ted was to speak, and behind it hung a blue curtain with the Islander crest and the Allstate symbol placed symmetrically across it. The curtain was taped to a wall with black electrical tape and was almost imperceptibly uneven.
Chris Botta brought in Chris Campoli for us to interview. He stood, facing 12 bloggers while wearing blue sweats, a blue long sleeved athletic shirt, and porous black moccasins. After overcoming initial reticence, we began asking him questions about the seemingly continuous poor treatment of the team from referees, his perspective on the new jerseys, his thoughts about the uncertainty of Berard hanging over a seemingly cohesive team, and his confidence looking ahead to the rest of the season after already contributing so much offensively in the first 2 games.
In short, he said he likes the new jerseys and thus far has not needed to change during games, that Berard is still unsigned and in any event he simply gets paid to play the game and that was what he was going to continue to do, and he deftly avoiding getting himself into any trouble with the league by stating "not every call is going to go your way, and tonight none went our way. That's just the way it works". He further added that the Isles took some undisciplined penalties and frankly have to play smarter in the future. As far as his outlook toward the rest of the season (considering his great offensive showing thus far) he indicated that he wants to continue to create odd man rushes and get involved in the offense without putting his defensive responsibilities at risk. Over all, Chris was affable, and accommodating.
Although we did not have an opportunity to interview Ted Nolan, we were allowed to sit in on his press conference. (The whole conference can be viewed on IslanderTV). The tone and volume of the words spoken between Ted Nolan and the Isle beat writers are similar to that which can be heard at a funeral. The grave air that pervades these conferences cannot be appreciated by watching them on television.
Its hard to convey everything that was going on around us during this time near the locker room. Islander players walking towards the showers wearing only a towel and joking "there's no women in there, right?", Rick DiPietro working on an exercise bike only 6 feet from us as equipment men from both squads carried out heavy bags of sticks, forcing us to stand virtually flat against the wall. We saw Vasicek, Dubielewicz, MAB, Sutton, Martinek, and Comrie all dressed impeccably in pinstripe suits and sport jackets as they left the dressing room. Perhaps the most memorable, however, was seeing Bredan Witt carrying his daughter while leaving the arena with his family. How effortlessly he made the transition from NHL tough man to father.
As we were getting ready to leave, Chris Botta introduced us to Islander correspondent Deb Kaufman, who was extremely gracious. She greeted us like an aunt who you only see on Christmas; she somehow conveyed that familiarity to all of us.
We received unprecedented access tonight to an NHL game from behind the scenes. It was an experience that every hockey fan should be fortunate to have. That being said, its now time to get back to the task at hand of giving the readers of our blogs an inside look into the happenings of our team.