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Fans and ICF winners at Adventureland

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Walking down the brick path through all the rides, games and autograph lines at Adventureland on Sunday morning, Islanders jerseys, t-shirts and other team paraphernalia went as far as the eye could see, worn by die-hard fans ranging in age from infants to grandparents.

“It was a great event,” said Islanders Manager of Community Relations. “It was our third annual Islanders Children’s Foundation Day here at Adventureland, the weather was on our side, the sun was out, all the guys on the team were here signing autographs and the coaches were all here. It seems like everyone had a great time.”

Mark Streit poses for a picture with a fan at Adventureland on Sunday, October 2, 2011. (New York Islanders) Click photo to view a gallery.
Team Captain Mark Streit was happy to see so many of the fans turn out.

“Not only are the players excited for the new season, but the fans are as well,” Streit said. “It’s important to show the fans how much they mean to us. When we play in front of a sold out building, it always makes a difference. It's tougher on opponents. So it’s good to meet our fans and give them the opportunity to meet the new players.”

He added, “It’s great to see all the Islanders jerseys, the t-shirts and the 40-years commitment signs. It’s really great. You can feel the excitement.”

Steve McGinnis, a Farmingdale resident, was one of those fans decked out in Isles gear. He came to Adventureland with his family.

“I’ve been an islanders fan since 1976,” McGinnis said. “I’ve stuck with them the whole time, so I’m here with my daughter and she’s the next generation. She loves them. My wife loves them. So we decided we had to come out, support them and tell them we were behind them.”

Steve McGinnis and his daughter pose for a picture with Sparky, the Islanders mascot at Adventureland on Sunday, October 2, 2011. (David Dow/Getty Images)
Players were stationed throughout the amusement park, giving fans ample opportunity to meet everyone, but also enjoy the rides and games.

Forward Matt Martin was one of the Islanders players who joined fans on rides throughout the day. He rode the Music Express, the Hurricane roller coaster and the Frisbee, a ride which spins in circles at the same time as doing the same motion of a swing.

“I don’t think I’ll be going on the Frisbee ever again,” Martin said after getting off the Frisbee. “The fans on the ride with me, they probably saw me at my worst, I wasn’t feeling too well on there. So I’m going to go sit down for a while. I need a timeout.”

Martin may not have enjoyed the stomach-turner of a ride, but the fans who got to sit next to him soaked it all up. Andrew Stockinger, age 14, came to Adventureland with his sister and after riding on both the Frisbee and the Hurricane with Martin, Stockinger had found his new favorite player.

Matt Martin is my favorite player so far, he’s really fun and really nice,” Stockinger said.

But this event wasn’t just for families. Many groups of friends came to the park to meet the team, including three members of the Long Island Rebels. All of them were really excited about getting the autographs, but the group of 11-year-olds really came out to meet their favorite players.

Brandon Blum, a left wing, is a fan of Trevor Gillies while Roger Labadie and Jake Regino, both centers, are fans of the Isles forwards Michael Grabner and John Tavares respectively.

“It’s really fun,” Blum said right after taking his picture with Islanders fifth overall draft selections Nino Niederreiter (2010) and Ryan Strome (2011). “I got everyone’s autographs.”

Niederreiter participated in last year's event, and the Islanders rookie forward said it felt a little different from his first time around. He was less nervous and felt like he was a part of the team.

Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome pose for a picture with 11-year-old Roger Labadie at Adventureland on Sunday, October 2, 2011. (David Dow/Getty Images)
“Today is going pretty well,” Niederreiter said. “I’m excited to be here. It’s great to see the fans that support us all year long.”

The 19-year-old Niederreiter, who is set to take his driver’s test later this week, was in a great mood and asked for a favor. He needed a message hand delivered to Streit, his fellow Swiss-man. On an autograph card, Niederreiter inked, “To my biggest fan, Streit” and signed his name. In return, the Islanders captain returned a card inscribed, “…your Idol always and forever.”

All fun and games, the players truly had a wonderful experience and loved seeing all the fans that came out to support them. At the end of the day, the event was a huge success, raising money for the Islanders Children’s Foundation.

“As hockey players, we are really fortunate,” Streit said. “Our profession is our hobby. So it’s great to give back because the kids are our future. This is a great thing. All the guys are happy to be here.”

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