By John Hill
The New York Islanders Draft Party was a smashing success. In place of ice, the New York Dragons home-field turf covered the Coliseum floor, where fans packed in to watch in anticipation of the first-round 2008 Draft selection.
Hosting the Draft Party was ESPN's John Buccigross. Along with him, other distinguished guests included Islanders prospects Robin Figren and Jack Hillen, both of whom came to mingle with fans and support the team on draft day.
The Draft was broadcast live on the video board, but it was far from the only source of entertainment on the evening. As fans entered the arena, they were met by a plethora of bargain merchandise. The Islanders team shop sold goods ranging from jackets to jerseys for discounts as high as 70%.
Additionally, on the other side of Arena, a separate kiosk was set up where fans could purchase various types of memorabilia with anything a fan could desire for their Islanders collection.
Representing the media were Newsday, News 12, the blog box and IslesNation.com.
Scattered throughout the Coliseum were numerous I.C.E. inflatables for younger fans. An obstacle course, big bounce, and a slide were just some of the options for fans to partake in. There were also numerous hockey skill games for fans to test their aptitude.
Young Islander fan Justin spent most of his time in front of one particular game that featured a green screen, allowing participants to play virtual goalie.
"My first try was really good, but my second one could use some work," said the exuberant youth. When asked if he aspired to playing goalie for the Isles one day, he seemed confident: "I play goalie for fun now, and if I keep practicing, I think I can do it."
Another option for fans on the arena floor were Hockey Hall of Fame exhibits, shipped in from Toronto. Featured memorabilia included Islanders game-used jerseys, sticks and helmets.
Off the turf, fans could venture behind the scenes in the Coliseum. The Islanders offered tours of the training room and the locker room. And, for fans who travelled into the locker room, they were met by Islanders prospects right wing Figren and defenseman Hillen. Figren himself was a former third round pick of the Islanders, back in 2006.
"It's a great feeling," said Figren. "I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the night. In 2006, I was at my apartment, sitting in front of my computer, hitting refresh. It's definitely a good feeling being in New York."
As the draft grew near, Buccigross took the podium, and immediately spoke with Islanders Assistant GM/Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski, who spoke about the importance of getting an impact player. Also featured on the video board was an interview with Bill Guerin.
The night ended with a punctuation mark. While Islander fans had to wait longer than expected for their pick, after two trades down, they got to witness Buccigross interview the team's newest player, Joshua Bailey. The Isles faithful greeted Bailey, the 9th overall selection, warmly to conclude the event.