Once an Islander, always an Islander.
That's the message and feeling Jon Ledecky, Scott Malkin, Dewey Shay and Charles Wang wanted to convey to the Islanders alumni. If you put on the sweater, if you skated, scored, fought or bled for the logo, you'd always have a place in the organization.
"Once an Islander, always an Islander. That's the most important part of this weekend," Ledecky said. "Whether you wore the sweater for one game or 1,000 games, you're a part of the Islanders family."
Video: Islanders Alumni Weekend
The beacon was lit and Islanders of all eras, from Eddie Westfall (1972-79) to Zenon Konopka (2010-11), descended upon New York for an alumni weekend. No one travelled further than Petr Mika (1999-2000), who flew his family from Prauge, Czech Republic to be a part of the event. For Mika, it was an honor to be invited by the team he'd only played three total games for.
"The sincerity of the ownership group is beyond words," Mick Vukota, a fan favorite from 1987-97, said. "They've extended it to every player, not just players that had 10 year careers, they want everybody to be involved with this organization.
The alumni were treated to a rooftop dinner in NYC on Friday night and lunch in lower Manhattan on Saturday. They met with fans before Saturday's game and were recognized on the ice in a pre-game ceremony, all dressed in orange and blue, soaking in applause from the fans again.
"It's an accomplishment for every individual to attain this level of success and to still feel appreciated years later and decades later is tremendous," Vukota said.
The alumni weekend was originally suggested by Pat Flatley (1983-96), Glenn Healy, all-time games and points leader Bryan Trottier (1975-90) and a alumni committee. The response from ownership was an automatic yes. Providing a first-class experience for the former Islanders is a priority for the entire ownership group who also staged a golf getaway for the team captains at Sebonack Golf Course in Southampton, back in September.
"The captain's weekend we had out at Sebonack was amazing and probably one of my best times ever as an alumni," Clark Gillies (1974-86) said. "Then to find out that they wanted to throw a nice weekend and invite whoever wants to come in, anyone who's ever played… that's just first-class all the way."
Ownership's commitment to alumni hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Scott, Jon and Charles have gone out of their way and have decided it's important to bring back the history of the New York Islanders," said Butch Goring (1980-85). "It's nothing short of amazing. All the alumni have been so appreciative of what's gone on over the last couple of years."
Video: New York Islanders Captains' Cup
For the players, the alumni events are a chance to get to know their Islander brethren, not just their former teammates. It's a chance for Mark Parrish (2000-06) to talk with Bobby Nystrom (1972-86) and for Vukota and Dave Scatchard (1999-2004) to swap war stories.
"I still feel like I'm riding the coattails of the guys that created this organization in the late 70s early 80s, the four Cups," Parrish said. "To see Trottier, Potvin, Gillies, Nystrom and all these guys that I grew up idolizing and to be in this kind of atmosphere and share this kind of moment with them, it's pretty special."
The Islanders alumni have spanned nearly five decades, so their experiences with the team on the ice have all varied. But as Trottier put it, they all have at least one thing in common and that's what made alumni weekend special.
"We all fell in love with the logo and we all fell in love with opportunity to play for Long Island," Trottier said. "I think that's shared by all of us."