Friday, October 14, 2011

Spreading the Joy of Hockey

Last night (10/13) I did something I hadn't done in a very long time. I attended an ice hockey game as a fan.

My friend Simon has been visiting New York (he's from England) this week, and I was hoping to give him a quintessentially American (or in this case, North American) sports experience. I was also hoping to select a match-up that would be filled with action, enough scoring to keep him interested, and hopefully one that resulted in a New York Islanders win.

I purchased two seats in the lower bowl so that he would be close enough to the game to really feel part of it. I was also optimistic that a game involving Tampa Bay and the Islanders would have a fair amount of goal scoring in it.

I chose wisely.

Just 36 seconds into his introduction to the NHL, Simon watched John Tavares race down the ice, fire a shot that was saved, only to see big Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman swipe the rebounding puck into his own team's net with his hand.

The crowd was elated at the good fortune that had fallen upon the home side. Simon was all smiles and I had a sense that he was a hockey fan in the making.

After an equalizing goal from Tampa Bay's #91, Steven Stamkos, at 7:10 of the same period, the Isles' offensive onslaught began.

Matt Moulson and Tavares hooked up 2:18 later on a pretty goal to recapture the lead, then Moulson returned the favor at the 15:15 mark. "JT" had a quick 3 point night and the Isles had a 3-1 lead.

But he wasn't done.

With time running down in the first, we were able to witness a fourth home goal, this time from P.A. Parenteau. Right there to pick up another assist, was, of course, John Tavares.

4 points in one period! Simon had seen a full game inside of twenty minutes.

With Al Montoya continuing to play a with a special kind of focus in goal and a 5th Isles goal (Grabner from Okposo) for good measure, the Islanders cruised to a somewhat easy victory.

A few concession stand snacks were enjoyed, a visit to a sports bar was made immediately following the win, and a great win was celebrated.

I always tell people that sports beings people, even those of diverse backgrounds and speaking different languages, together. I know Islanders fans all over the world; from Germany, Sweden, Japan, and so on. I know some blind fans who love a game that they can't even see.

I think last night proved my point yet again. I imagine that this morning the Islanders have one more fan from England they didn't have 24 hours ago.

News and Notes:

- Tavares' scoring outburst was the first time an Islander scored 4 points in a period since Niklas Andersson in 1996. (Thanks to Isles' statistician Eric Hornick for that one).

- 2011 draft pick Ryan Strome, just returned to the Ontario Hockey League, opened his season with a hat trick for his Niagara IceDogs. Yes, in case you hadn't heard, he's one to watch.

- Evgeni Nabakov dressed as Montoya's backup but saw no action. Rick DiPietro is out with a concussion, the team announced.

- The Isles improve to 2-1-0-0 on the season, with a home game against the rival New York Rangers on Saturday (10/15) night.

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