So its 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. Where is your 21-year-old son or daughter? There's a good chance that he or she is at a party, out with friends, seeing a movie, engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse, doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and ... well, you get the picture. Sometimes, all of those things in the same Saturday night. The early 20s are your most productive years, they say.
Its 9:30 p.m. on my Saturday night, and here I am -- 21 years old -- asking New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon a question about who in the prospect camp we've all just witnessed has progressed from the last time he saw them play. He is very patient and takes a lot of his time to answer my question. I don't remember the specifics of it (NOTE: There will be an actual, detailed report of what I spoke to him about after the scrimmage, in which I will remember the specifics of it) but I was thankful that he took the most of his four minutes standing in front of writers and bloggers answering something that I thought of.
After this, we were led along to other members of the Islanders prospect teams after Team Orange's 5-4 win over Team Blue in the combined scrimmage/superskills event. Oh, there's Kirill Kabanov, the yet-to-be 18-year-old Russian who saw his draft stock drop from surefire first-rounder to Islanders third-round steal. Next is Nino Niederreiter, or "El Nino" or "El Fantastico", the Isles first-round draft pick (5th overall) who scored a sweet shootout goal for Team Orange that will likely be the lasting memory for anyone of the 4,940 who attended this event. By the way, nearly 5,000 folks paid in for a hockey game in July! How awesome is that? And wait, didn't I just shake hands and introduce myself to the head coach of the New York Islanders?
So why did I end up doing this, you might ask? Why did I decide to break myself in to the credentialed media by speaking to 18-, 19- and 20-year-old men who will make more money in the next couple of years than I will ever see in my lifetime? Why make the hour-long drive out from North Jersey to Long Island for a game that doesn't matter in the middle of July, where the combination of 100 degree heat, muggyness and humidity, mixed with a 50-degree ice rink, will likely have me dead by the time you read this? (NOTE: If I'm dead, please let me know how you enjoyed this column when you meet me in Heaven. Or hell.)
Eh, its pretty simple now that i think about it. I wanted to do a hockey road-trip for the first time in my life. I've never been anywhere but East Rutherford or Newark to see a hockey game. I've only been to Madison Square Garden (Foo Fighters) and Nassau Coliseum (Warped Tour) for concerts, and in fact, the Coliseum one was outside, so I never got in. Also, I got my wallet stolen at that show in July of 2008. I was also at the Coliseum for some justice, and to possibly find it. (NOTE: Not really)
Meanwhile, I've been trying to develop my little writing career, and I felt this was the next logical step. I've done everything from the outside since I was 16 years old. Time to try something new. Thankfully, the Islanders were very gracious in dealing with me. They were very easy to work with, and granted me the requests I asked for. Overall, they are a credit to hockey in their ability to give opportunities to alternative media. What they are doing is getting their product out to a greater variety of fans, and making the dreams of a lot of writers come true. I hope they will have me back someday soon.
So what did I learn tonight? Not much, to be honest. I guess I learned what an Islanders coach was like in person (very calm and collected, as if he's expecting you to ask your question) and a few players (ranging from goofy and engaged to very nervous and unsure of their ability to speak English) beyond the ice. I learned how to be a professional and still have fun chasing around the sport I love. I learned that the Coliseum goal horn is a weapon of mass destruction, and will leave me deaf at age 40. Mostly, I learned that all my dreams of being around this wonderful ice game have been validated from this experience. When you're 21, that's almost like being invincible.