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by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
Open Practice for Season Ticketholders Becomes Surprise Autograph Session
Islanders season ticketholders got a special surprise when they showed up for their exclusive Open Practice today. At the request of Mike Milbury and with the complete cooperation of the players, the Open Practice morphed into an impromptu autograph signing.
"All of our fans are extremely important to us," said Milbury, "but the season subscribers really are the lifeblood of our organization. These are the people who are there for us night after night, season after season. We needed to let them know how much they are appreciated, and this was just one way of showing it."
So after a 75-minute practice and an exciting penalty shot session won by forwards Mark Parrish and Petteri Nokelainen (along with Garth Snow and Rick DiPietro, who were outstanding), Coliseum workers removed panes of glass to create five sections for fans to line up. Every player and coach posed for photographs and signed autographs until everyone went home happy.
"This was one of the best Islander events our family has ever been a part of," said longtime Islanders subscriber Ken Cahill. "We came in expecting a basic open practice, greetings from the players and MIke and some giveaways, which would have been just great. But the Islanders really surprised us. My kids got their jerseys signed by more than a dozen players. In one area alone we were able to get Rick and Garth and Mark Parrish, and also Brad Lukowich, who's already becoming a fan favorite."
Islanders season subscribers in attendance were entered into a raffle for several unique prizes, including joining the Islanders on their private charter and at the team hotel for a road trip. When one of the road trip winner's names was announced, he hugged his friend and shouted so loud, you could have heard him from the Hofstra campus. All in all, a memorable day.
"We want to thank the season subscribers for spending the morning with us," said head coach Steve Stirling, who kept the fans informed throughout the practice about drills and systems (let's hope the Sabres didn't send a secret scout). "They give up so many of their nights to spend with us. I hope we made the trip in to the Coliseum today worth their while."
From the smiles on the fans for two straight hours, there was no doubt.
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