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by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
Tyler Haskins - Last Season: Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)

What are your feelings coming into your first NHL exhibition game?

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Excitement all over the place. It’s something you dream about when you’re a kid and it’s what you always play for.  Every kid has that dream to play in the NHL and after about 20 years of playing, its finally come true for me.  When I first saw that I was going to make the trip and play tonight it was just joy all over the place.

Does this mean a little bit more to you being that you worked your way to this point, coming up through the minor leagues? 

It makes it a little sweeter. I’ve been in camps since I was 18 and I’m 23 now and I’m finally getting the chance to go out there and play alongside some of the best players in the world. It makes it a little sweeter knowing that I’ve worked my way through some tough times to get here but in the end, its all been worth it.  I’m really excited and looking forward to having fun night tonight.

You’re going to be playing in an arena where several Hall of Famers made history in. Does that make this any more special? 

I read the old Wayne Gretzky book and heard some of the stories that went on here when I weas a kid.  This just adds to an incredible night ahead that will hopefully go well.

Travis Hamonic - Last Season: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

What was it like when you got the news you were playing tonight?

I just started smiling ear to ear.  It’s not quite a regular season game, but it’s a stepping stone that I was hoping to take.  It has been 19 years in the making and it’s a dream come true. To be in Canada with the Islanders, it’s truly exciting.

The names Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier hang in the rafters in the Rexall Place.  What goes through your mind when you see their retired numbers.

Definitely a lot of history here so there is a lot going through my mind.  I think the biggest thing is trying to block that stuff out. The game is played within the glass and I’m a regular player out there like anyone else and I’m trying to make a hockey team this year. I’m going to do whatever it takes. You have to respect the past and reach for the future.

Have any Islander veterans pulled you aside to help settle your nerves before tonight’s game?

I’ve been rooming with Bruno Gervais this week…he’s been great with me…any little details, questions, advice he can give me, he’s more than willing to do. Guys like him (Brendan) Witt, (Andy) Sutton, (Freddy) Meyer, (Mark)] Streit…guys like that, there’s a lot of games between them and any advice they can give me, my eyes and ears are open and my mouth is shut while trying to take everything in. 

Calvin de Haan - Last Season: Oshawa Generals (OHL)

What was the first reaction you had when you found out you were playing against the Oilers tonight. 

To be honest, I was a little more nervous than anything…that’s to be expected though. It’s pretty surreal right now and I don’t know, it’s just going to be a good experience.

What are your emotions like with former players like Gretzky and Messier having lifted Stanley Cups here?

It’s over the top, I can’t even explain the feeling right now. It’s going to be even cooler when I’m on the ice, for sure, and there’s going to be fans screaming and roaring. It’s going to be a dream come true.

Justin DiBenedetto - Last Season: Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Give us an idea of what is going through your mind right now, primed to play your first NHL exhibition game.

Obviously it’s an exciting moment…I think any young guy comes into the lineup and gets into a NHL exhibition game it’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to the experience.

What was your initial reaction when you got the news?

A little bit of everything. I was nervous when I first found out about it and I was really excited. I think the nerves are going to start kicking in as we get closer to the game but after a couple of shifts I think I’ll be alright.

Does this arena bring add to the atmosphere you’ll experience in knowing its your first NHL exhibition game?

I took a tour around the arena and to just see great history that’s been made here—it’s just going to be a good experience and I’m just going to take it all in.

Last season you finished the season in Bridgeport—how will that help you tonight?

I think it will help me tremendously. I not only realized what it takes to play at a higher level but how to compete against men.  The strength that these guys in the corners or on a face-off are a high level but I’m looking forward to experiencing it and implementing some things into my game. 

Other First Timers Dressing Tonight:

- Casey Cizikas - Last Season: Toronto (OHL)
- Robin Figren - Djurgardens IF (SEL) / Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
- Mikko Koskinen - Espoo (FIN)
- John Tavares - Oshawa/London (OHL)
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