It’s been a little more than a month since Kyle Okposo
and Mark Streit
completed play in the IIHF World Championships. The tournament, played in Streit’s native Switzerland, was a terrific experience for both—who represented the Islanders very well with their respective teams.
“It was an unbelievable feeling for me to go back and play the Worlds in my hometown,” said Streit, who had one goal and four assists in six games. “It was a special feeling to play in front of the home crowd, unfortunately we didn’t finish as strong as we wanted to.”
Streit, who played a team-high 28-minutes per game, said that while he personally did not feel added pressure to perform in front of the home crowd, he acknowledged that it may have affected the team overall.
“I’ve played in Montreal and now here in New York, and when you play in this league there is pressure every night,” said Streit, who was Switzerland’s captain. “I didn’t put too much pressure on my shoulders, I just wanted to enjoy it. But maybe as a team, we were not as loose as we could have been. I thought we played well, but we had a hard time scoring and that was the difference. The work ethic was there—and so was the will—but we just weren’t cool enough in front of the net and maybe part of that was playing in front of our home crowd.”
Okposo and Team USA seemed to get stronger as the tournament went on, and the Islanders forward was thrilled to be competing in the event.
“I felt my game was pretty good out there. I felt I had a pretty good work ethic out there and I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team,” Okposo said. “It’s something that you wont forget anytime soon—representing your country. Just to be asked to play on that team was a real honor.”
One of the more intense—and strange—moments for Streit and Okposo during the tournament came in a Qualification Round game between Switzerland and the United States.
With the Swiss battling for their tournament lives, Streit and Okposo engaged in what can best be described as a shoving match. Each of the players was given roughing minors on the play. It is a moment that brings both of the men to laughter today.
“For us, that was a crucial game,” Streit said, not hiding a very large smile when talking about the incident. “It was intense and we wanted to win, and it’s part of hockey. I was laughing because people were asking me ‘hey, what are you guys doing, you are teammates.’ But we get along so well, and I texted him each day of the tournament and wished him a lot of luck and I was really rooting for them to get a medal.”
Okposo had a similar take.
“It was just heat of the moment and we laughed about it after the game,” Okposo said. “(Mark) is a competitor and such a good player. I love going against him because he makes you work that much harder for everything you get. It was a ton of fun playing against him.”
Now training for next season, both Streit and Okposo are looking forward to watching the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on June 26th.
“For everybody, this was a really tough year and this is a big opportunity for the franchise and for the fans,” Streit said. “I’m excited for next year. We already have so many great young players and the future looks bright. If we can add a talented, gifted player, no matter who it is going to be, it’s going to add so much to the team. It’s very exciting. I’ll be watching the Draft very closely.”
Streit himself had a long, winding road to the NHL—having not been drafted until he was 26-years-old. After waiting eight long years to be recognized by the NHL, the former Swiss pro player got the call in 2004, in the ninth round, as the 262nd overall pick, by the Montreal Canadiens.
“To play in the NHL is a dream,” Streit said. “For me, I had to wait a little longer, but the feeling was just unbelievable. I didn’t even know I had been drafted and when I got the call, I almost dropped the phone. I was so flattered and I was speechless. For me, it was the biggest thing—to play in the NHL—and it still is.”
Okposo did not have to wait nearly as long to get his call, as the Islanders selected him with the seventh-overall pick in 2006.
“It is a lot of anticipation and it’s a fun time,” Okposo said, thinking about his own draft day. “This is obviously a huge draft for us coming up. With that first pick, we’re going to get a tremendous player. I’m excited about it. We have a lot of picks in this draft and I am really looking forward to it.”
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