Some of the most loyal New York Islanders fans made their way to the Inn at New Hyde Park Tuesday to wine and dine with their favorite Isles players and coaching staff at the 2013 Sticks & Steaks event. Eager guests had the chance to get up close and personal with the Islanders and see what they are like off the ice, with all proceeds raised during the night’s events benefiting the Islanders Children’s Foundation (ICF).
The night kicked off with guests, players and coaches arriving simultaneously, greeted by a cocktail hour to break the ice. Players mingled throughout the room with the Orange & Blue, answering questions and swapping stories. Fans got a chance at the “step and repeat” with family and players, posing like celebrities in front of an Islanders backdrop before being formally welcomed to the event by Islanders play-by-play announcer Howie Rose, who MC’d the night’s events. Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano took center stage following Rose, thanking the attendees and sponsors for their support of the team, as well as being a part of the charitable event.
Rose, no rookie to events benefiting the ICF, expressed the hockey club’s dedication to the game and the local community.
“I’m so proud to be a part of the Islanders organization,” Rose said. “It’s an honor to be associated with the team and know that the event is not only a way for the players to interact with the fans, but just as heartwarming know that it’s all to benefit the kids. Events like these humanize the players in a way that we can’t on television. It’s the most important thing a team can do – to be one with the community and give back. You can’t put a price on that.”
Sixteen-year-old Matthew Rothman has been an Islanders fan as far back as he can remember, with a lifelong dream of meeting the players to lace up the skates for his favorite team. Rothman’s night was fulfilled getting an Islanders jersey signed by the entire roster, and getting to pose with the Islanders defensive tandem of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald.
“I’ve had the chance to meet some of the players at the Coliseum after games, but this is different,” Rothman said. “This is my first chance to see them all and I can’t even describe it.”
Rothman spent the rest of the evening dining with Hamonic, who chatted one-on-one with the young fan between signing autographs and stopping for photos.
“Events like this are pretty important for us,” Hamonic said. “You have a chance to give back to the fans and the community. They can see us on TV, but when they get the opportunity to interact with us, that’s what puts a smile on their faces. It’s even better that we are doing this to support ICF. When the two causes get together and work towards something, it makes a big difference.”
The evening’s events brought together almost 200 loyal members of the Orange & Blue. Guests were able to bid on gift baskets put together by Isles wives and girlfriends for a silent auction – the baskets included everything from autographed Isles gear, to signed bottles of wine to players’ favorite movies and video games. The hottest commodity on the table was the Moulson and Okposo basket, which included a round of golf with the two Islanders forwards.
“Everyone had a great time tonight,” Islanders Community Relations Manager Ann Rina said. “The Sticks and Steaks Dinner gives fans an opportunity to get up close with the team and actually get a chance to meet the person behind the player. We look forward to hosting more events next season that will continue to help the children of Long Island.”
This year’s Sticks & Steaks dinner raised a substantial amount of money which will go directly to the ICF. The Foundation, created ten years ago, is dedicated to supporting Long Island-based not-for-profit organizations that provide opportunities for children. The ICF aims to work with those child-based charities focusing on health, education and youth hockey development. All proceeds go toward bettering the youth of Long Island and beyond.