The energy and excitement pulsating through the stands at Nassau Coliseum usually emanates from the ice, where the Islanders and a visitor are going head-to-head for 60 minutes of hockey. On Friday, the team dispersed throughout the stands while fans took center ice. Season ticket holders like Doug Johnstone and his son Daniel had the opportunity to skate on Coliseum ice, tour the dressing rooms and meet their favorite Islanders players at the 2012-13 New York Islanders Season Subscriber Party.
Doug Johnstone is a second generation season ticket holder with the Islanders, coming to games now with his son as he once did with his father. Being able to come to all of the games and meet the players is second nature to him now and is why he continues to renew his season tickets with the Islanders.
“The whole experience is great. It brings back memories,” Doug said. “Being able to watch my son experience what I experienced and even more – there is nothing better than this. I love getting to spend time with him and seeing the glow on his face when he is here.”
The Season Subscriber Party comes as a way for players to give back to those loyal fans who make their way to Uniondale multiple times a week. This year's fun-filled event included Islanders mascot Sparky the Dragon and the Ice Girls, and consisted of an open skate, behind-the-scene tours, photos with center John Tavares and autographs from the Islanders players.
Doug began splitting season tickets with his father in 1990 and took over the account four years ago. He tries to bring Daniel to every game and has also brought his father to games, making it a family tradition.
Hockey is a way of life in the Johnstone family. The three generations have all played, Daniel now skating for the Icecats at Islanders Iceworks and hoping to get a chance to play in Orange & Blue for the Junior Islanders.
“Watching my dad play hockey and having the season tickets, I just adjusted to it,” Daniel said. “They got me to play hockey and now I love it.”
The Coliseum was filled with families sharing many of the same joys as Doug and Daniel. Islanders forward Colin McDonald remembers getting to meet the athletes he looked up to when he was younger.
“It was always nice to meet the players,” McDonald said. “I was a kid once too and I wanted to be a professional hockey player as I’m sure many of these kids do. It’s just nice meeting the players you look up to most off of the ice and on a more personal level.”
McDonald began playing hockey after watching his father Gerry McDonald play for the Hartford Whalers in the early 1980s. He says one of the best things about Friday’s event was being able to give back to the fans who are there supporting them at every game now.
“It’s pretty comforting to know how passionate they really are,” McDonald said. “I’ve heard how passionate Islanders fans are and I’ve been able to experience that on a more personal level after this, so it’s a pretty special night.”
For first year Islanders player Joe Finley, interacting with his fans made his night.
“I’m really enjoying getting this opportunity to shake a few hands, sign some cards and interact a little bit,” Joe said. “I remember a couple instances as a kid where I went to similar events. I think the most important thing for us is making sure that we spend time with everyone we can. These people are important. I really try to make sure everyone is taken care of.”
And that he did. The event embodied the team’s motto, “Orange & Blue + You,” giving season ticket holders hours of personal time with players and creating lifelong memories for the next generation of Islanders fans.