Cal Clutterbuck started doing the math in his head and on his hands to confirm that this was indeed his 13th season in the NHL. The 31-year-old really needs three hands to count out how many seasons he's played in the NHL, but such is life for a wily vet.
As the miles accumulate - and for Clutterbuck, they've been hard miles - one thing stays the same - the excitement for a new season and another chance to chase the Stanley Cup.
"There's excitement," Clutterbuck said. "You're here because you want to achieve the ultimate goal. For a lot of us that was making the NHL. Now that we're here the second goal is to win a Cup. As of today and going into tomorrow you've got a blank canvas and a lot of work put in by a lot of guys to prepare for it. Now you get to measure up. It's fun."
The excitement that comes with the dawn of a new season has permeated through the Islanders room this week. With a Friday start, the Isles have been watching hockey for two nights and are itching to get on the ice themselves. Whether it's an old soul like Clutterbuck, or a fresh-faced rookie who just had his NHL number selected for him - Noah Dobson - it's an exciting time of year.
Of course the internal excitement for every player is slightly different. Mathew Barzal loves the camaraderie of a season, spending time with the same 23 guys in the locker room, or on the road all season long.
"I just love the thought of getting into an 82-game season with these guys," Barzal said. "I love just feeling that you're going into battle with guys and this is going to be our family for the next eight or nine months. That's how everyone looks at it. That's what motivates me. I just love getting into that season grind."
For Barzal, who watched all four games on opening night, the season is the easy part. His offseason workouts are relentlessly hard, so playing is the fun part. Anders Lee agrees, the offseason is a grind and he's always excited to see how that work is going to pay off.
"Anytime you start a new year that general excitement is there," Lee said. "It's playing the game again. You're back in that competitive environment playing hockey. You've had three, four, five months off to get ready for the season and gear back up for things. Now all that hard work, that offseason stuff gets put to use on opening night."
Entering his 21st season behind an NHL bench, Head Coach Barry Trotz's coaching career is older than some of his players. But even for Trotz, who's seen everything from expansion seasons to Stanley Cups, the thrill and nerves of the start of a new season don't go away. He just might be better at handling it now than he did back in 1998.
Video: Isles Excited for Opening Night
"The first night I was pacing for about 24 hours before the game. Now I'm pretty calm until 2:30 or 3 o clock and then I'll get ramped up and feel the excitement," Trotz said. "There's nothing like opening night. It's the first step of a new journey and you don't know how that journey is going to end and all the adventures through that journey to get where you want to be. It is exciting, we're playing for real and there's something about that."
The new season kicks off at 7 p.m. Whether you're a coach, fan or player, that's something to be excited about.