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'WE FELT LIKE PART OF THE TEAM'

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders
Season subscribers write of a road trip to remember

[Islanders VP Communications Chris Botta received the following email this week from Dave and Rich Birns, two season subscribers who won the chance to join the Islanders on a road trip. From the team charter to the team hotel, "backstage" looks at a morning skate and a road game, the Birns brothers said they lived the dream. With their permission, they have allowed us to share their letter]

My brother and I just want to thank you and the rest of the Islanders organization for the memories of the past week.  The road trip to Ottawa was an experience unlike any other.  We felt like part of the team, which is a dream to any sports fan.  The Canadian kids asking for our autograph was just an added bonus for regular guys like us.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, we found Steve Stirling alone at the restaurant.  He was ordering a sandwich to bring back to his room to watch game film.  We said hello and expected him to be on his way, but he was sincerely interested in talking with us.  He let us buy him a drink (soda) and talked with us for almost half an hour.  It was an experience we'll never forget.  Coaches are usually not that approachable.  We are the insurance agents for two NBA coaches, and even we don't speak with them as freely as we did with Coach Stirling.

The broadcasters were also wonderful with us. John Wiedeman in particular made the trip even more exceptional.  He was the first one on the flight to say more than hello to us, and basically became our tour guide.  He took us under his wing during the morning skate as if we were working with him. Back at the hotel, we spent the better part of the afternoon with him, talking about the team, the league, his job and many other topics.  At the arena for the game, he went out of his way to make sure the Ottawa employees treated us like VIPs.  He treated us more like friends than prize-winners.

Your follow-up invitation to the press box for the home game against the Panthers was not necessary, but very much appreciated.  Seeing up close how John, Chris King, Howie and Joe do their thing was a real treat.  Allowing us to bring our wives up from the regular seats was the final clincher. They supported our fantasy week, and got a little taste of how special it was for us.  By the way, the broadcasters once again treated us like friends.  It was a special way to wrap up a most  memorable week.  And we won the game!

Feel free to invite us back any time.  Thanks again for everything.

Best regards,
Rich & Dave Birns

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