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Breaking bread with Trevor Gillies

by David Hochman / New York Islanders
During the month of March, thousands of fans across Long Island submitted their personal Islanders stories to win City Cellar’s “Dinner with an Islander” contest. Only one lucky New York Islanders fan would be selected to dine with one of his/her hockey heroes, so despite reading tons of extraordinary tales, one love story stood out from the rest.

Kelly Zimpel and CJ Montesano, two soon-to-be newlyweds, won the contest and got to share their story with popular Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies at City Cellar Wine Bar & Restaurant in Westbury.

“We were actually out at a bar one night and the Islanders game was on,” Zimpel recounted. “I had sat there with a couple friends and the Islanders scored. When I let out a little cheer, he looked at me and said, ‘you’re an Islanders fan?’ That started our first conversation two years ago. Now we’re engaged and we’re having an Islanders-themed wedding.”

That Islanders theme includes blue and orange decorations. And while the wedding cake may not get all Islander’ed up, the engagement cake certainly did. The wedding will take place exactly one year from their April 21, 2011 ‘Dinner with an Islander.’

Gillies arrived early for dinner and greeted the couple as they entered the spacious bistro. They trio hit it off from the start and enjoyed a beautiful three-course meal, while talking hockey, firefighting, life, love and everything in between for over three hours.

Islanders forward Trevor Gillies dines with contest winners at City Cellar in Westbury on Thursday, April 21, 2011. Click photo to view photo gallery.
“We had a fantastic time,” Gillies said. “We had some nice laughs and good conversation. And, of course, (we had) fantastic food here at City Cellar. I just had an excellent time and wish them nothing but the best on their upcoming marriage.”

A marriage that came to fruition largely because of the Islanders.

“Obviously we don’t get to see the fans too much, except when we come out and they’re all screaming and going wild,” Gillies said. “But it’s nice for them to see that I’m not like I am on the ice. And it’s great for me to get to know some other people that are huge fans of the team.”

Montesano appreciated the time that he was able to spend with Gillies.

“Trevor’s really nice. (He’s a) different person off the ice than he is on the ice,” Montesano said. “It’s nice to see him as a person. You talk with him and learn about his likes, his dislikes, his interests. It’s refreshing to see that he is a professional, but he’s a regular person, not just somebody broken out of a mold to do one thing.”

Zimpel agreed and felt a deep impact from this extended meal.

“I think it’s nice for them that they care about the fans and they want to get to know us,” she said. “They’re there for us.”

Scott Dexter, Managing Partner of City Cellar, also cares about the Islanders fans and players alike. He had welcomed the three patrons to their reserved corner booth overlooking the sprawling restaurant to start the meal and continued to check in on them throughout the night.

“You couldn’t ask for a better evening,” Dexter said. “Trevor Gillies, he might be a rough, tough guy on the ice, but he’s one of the kindest people off the ice. CJ and Kelly were just fascinated by him and his stories. They were here for over three hours!”

Dexter, along with Islanders management, envisioned this event several years ago when he first became a part of the Islanders family.

“Mike Bossy and his staff came to us about five years ago to see what we could do together and it’s been great ever since,” Dexter said. “We’re part of the Islanders family as the Islanders are part of my City Cellar family, as is everyone else that comes to this restaurant.”

Now, the planning will have to start for next year’s ‘Dinner with an Islander.’

“As long as I’m here on this earth, I’ll keep doing this every year with them. It’s a great opportunity to meet the fans and have a player here.”

So get ready to tell the Islanders why you deserve this special night out on the town with an Islander, you’ve got 11 months. Go!

Below is the story of how CJ & Kelly met in Kelly’s own words:

My fiancée and I should win ‘Dinner with an Islander’ because we can say if it wasn't for the Islanders, we would not be together, and never have met.

It was back in January of 2009. I was out with a couple of girlfriends. We went to a local bar to get a couple drinks. It was a week night and a very slow night at the bar. Besides us girls sitting at a table, there were only a couple of guys sitting at the bar watching an Islanders game, who we didn't even really notice were there.

I was walking back from the bathroom, while looking at the TV to catch the score. While looking, the Islanders scored and I let out a little cheer. This guy turned around, looked surprised to see a female cheering for the Islanders, and said, “Are you an Islanders fan?” And I replied, “Sure am.” I then told my girlfriends to come up and sit at the bar so we could finish watching the game.

For the first two months of us dating, our dates would be on game nights and we would go to his house and watch the games together. We go to as many games as we can during the season and if we are not at a game or it’s away, we always watch them at home together.

December 20, 2010 he proposed to me. And we have always said since we met we have to do Islanders colors at our wedding. Well, the day has come and our wedding will be orange and blue. Our Engagement Party cake was even Islanders-themed. But it is only fitting since we can honestly say, and I truly believe it, had the game not been on that day, we would have never had that first conversation. When anyone who knows us, hears what our colors are for our wedding, they all think it’s very fitting because everything for us goes back to that first game.

So I need to say, thank you Islanders for helping me find the love of my life. Also, thanks for considering us for this contest.
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