|Joel Rechlicz poses for a picture with an Islander fan. |
The Islanders have held six player appearances at their team stores this summer, and Faith Mahnken and her family have not only been at all six, but they've been one of, if not the first to arrive each time.
Mahnken, her husband Greg and their six-year-old and six-month-old daughters travel from their home in Copiague for each player signing, and last night, arrived extra early to see Joel Rechlicz, the sixth and final player to sign autographs at the Team Stores this summer.
"We were on line at 3:30," Mahnken said. That time may not strike you as impressive until realizing that the Rechlicz signing did not begin until 6:30 p.m., three hours later.
The Mahnken family greeted Rechlicz as the first of about 150 fans eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Islander tough guy.
“Unfortunately, we don't get to go to many games because of the baby. It's kind of hard with an infant,” Mahnken said. “I like the fact that the players are so friendly with the kids and that none of them are afraid to hold the baby. Each one of them has held her and taken pictures with both my daughters."
In their effort to remain one of the biggest Islander fans the team has, both of Mahnken daughters are members of the Kids Club, and little Ruth looks to become an Islander fan for life.
For Rechlicz, a fan favorite who played the majority of the final two months with the Islanders, Tuesday was a long day, which started bright and early at 8 a.m. when he attended the "Just Build It" Rally in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot.
"After the rally we went to the YMCA," Rechlicz said. "We did some autograph stuff there and the kids won some prizes, played some games and had the opportunity to play some hockey so it was a lot of fun."
The 6'4, Wisconsin native, known by many fans as "The Wrecker,” is looking to make a big impression as the enforcer for the Islanders this season. He quickly garnered a reputation as a tough guy in the league when he was called up to the Islanders last year, which made him a fan favorite and created quite a fan base for the young forward.
"Obviously it's great to see a lot of fans," Rechlicz said. "I honestly didn't expect this many people to come by and ask for my autograph so it's a great feeling for me and it's great to give back to the fans. It went real well today, I had a blast."
In only 17 games last season, Rechlicz accumulated 68 penalty minutes, and has trained hard this summer as he is looking to make the Islanders this season and contribute on all aspects of the game.
"My summer's going great," Rechlicz said. "I'm looking forward to everything from the first game to game 82. You have a couple months off and it's like, 'OK, come on now, can we start the season?' It's always exciting and I'm real thrilled to have this opportunity next season."
As summer nears its end and the season approaches, for the Mahnkens, their baby will most likely force them to watch their favorite team from their couch, but because of the Islanders I.C.E. Tour and the player signings this summer, they have never felt so close to their favorite players. For Rechlicz, he has touched the hearts of many fans with his exciting play on the ice and his generosity off of it this summer.