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NY 529 Gives Young Isles Fan Chance of a Lifetime

by Caela McLoughlin / New York Islanders
Monday afternoon, nine-year-old James Romanelli enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime. He won the New York 529 Kid Broadcaster Sweepstakes, Romanelli took in a birds-eye view from the press box for the second period of the Presidents Day matinee between the Islanders and Senators. He sat next to radio broadcaster Chris King and joined him on the WRHU broadcast.

New York’s 529 College Savings Program teamed up with the New York Islanders to host the online sweepstakes where one lucky winner between the ages of 6 and 14 would assist King in the broadcast for half of the second period.
“I thought it was going to be easy, but the whole time I was sitting there thinking of what to say,” Romanelli said. “I want to be a hockey player when I grow up. This can be my back up, but I may want to do TV.”
Romanelli is no stranger to Nassau Coliseum or the Islanders after growing up an Islanders fan in a family of season ticket holders. His family didn’t deliver the thrilling news until Monday morning though because they did not want James to have too many nerves. When they told him the exciting news, he was thrilled.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Romanelli said. “I knew all of the players from coming to games and playing EA Sports NHL 12. I understood everything the announcer said.”

James Romanelli, 9, of Huntington, calls the action on WRHU with Chris King during the second period of the Islanders-Senators game on Feb. 20, 2012.
His familiarity with hockey terminology was not only because he listens to games on the radio and watches on TV, but also because Romanelli plays hockey year round. During the winter, he plays outdoors at the Dix Hills Skating Rink. Once it gets warmer, Romanelli heads inside and plays at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset and in his hometown of Huntington.
This wasn’t only a special experience for nine-year-old Romanelli, but it also brought back fond memories for the Islanders long-time radio voice. Growing up an Islanders fan, King recalls having an interest in announcing at a very young age, maybe even earlier than Romanelli.

“I remember my dad taking me to Long Island Ducks minor league games as early as five-years-old,” King said. “I used to take a tape recorder after and try recapping the games even then. I remember being at the Islanders first-ever playoff game against the Rangers in ’75 and thinking that broadcasting for them would be my dream job.”

Although Romanelli has a dream of becoming a professional hockey player, his energy for sitting in the press box and broadcasting was definitely what stuck with King and other media members.

“I loved seeing his enthusiasm and excitement,” King said. “It’s one thing to announce the games from up here, but there’s something about being nine-years-old and having that youthful enthusiasm and energy. Announcing isn’t easy, so it was great to have a radio fan here who knew a lot about the team. He did a really good job.”

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