Last night, with both Ranger fan brothers in tow to do a dry run on something we will be working over the summer, we went to the sparsely attended, yet extremely insightful and inclusive new initiative of the NY Islanders. The Isles plan on having these meetings every month, the next is likely June 4th. At these meetings, you have the opportunity to intermingle and kibbutz with many of the Isles upper brass. You get to impart some questions and perhaps have a few issues at least addressed.
Last night, I met Isles VP of Communications, Josh Bernstein
for the first time. In the vacuum left by Chris Botta's departure, Josh is now running the show. He was the producer of SportsCenter on ESPN, winning three emmys. He's the guy running the Isles TV. So, he now has Media Relations added to his full plate and expansive repertoire. Not to mention, dealing with us. Luckily, Corey Witt
, who coordinated most initiatives with the blog box, messageboards, and media passes will still be a point guy as well.
As Josh told me and fellow Blog Box members, Tom Liodice http://www.thetigertrack.com/
and Dee Karl http://7thwoman.bravejournal.com/
, MSG2 will start having an Isles produced 1/2 show next season. You might see a few ones over the course of mid to late summer (once a month), but it is October when you will see them more regularly at every other week. This is happy news to most due to the extreme weight of NYR and NJ related material that appears on Dolan's network. NJ? Ok, just NYR related material.
So, besides just what has been very good internet material via Isles TV, they will be doing the daunting task of creating some TV-level content. Something to feed our always questing souls for news and features.
Besides all this, the Isles are not only committed to the Blog Box program, we have opportunity to expand on it. In speaking to Josh, and also Chris Dey
, Senior VP of Sales, Marketing & Operations, they are onboard Chris Botta's initiative and want to build on it. Just like they are reaching bout and building more accountability and dialogue with the fans. And Chris seems very bright, eager and interested in making a difference.
In the theme of reaching out, Chris Dey first spoke as the always well-knit C.J. Papa introduced him. Dey spoke about what I had been railing on for years about the Isles and the NHL....reaching out with a local initiative to provide street hockey gear to kids under 17.
When I came to LI, it was during the Isles dynasty heydey. I was soon enrolled by the kids on my block to play street hockey. It was part of the fabric on Long Island in the early 80s. And thanks to the Isles, it will be again.
In making hockey part of each child's lives you are doing much more than just introducing the Isles to fans. You are bringing the greatest game to these kids sense of sports. This is something that the NHL should also be doing to turn around flagging NHL interest in the US, where TV is dominated by overpaid spoiled brats who do far little effort than what these hockey players do day in and day out.
Hey wait, how did I suddenly step onto this soapbox? Ok, back to our regularly scheduled blog . . .
After this, we had the video of E.J. Hradek
from ESPN give us a special Isles flavored rundown on all the draft picks that the Isles might consider in his opinion. I watched Garth's face carefully through out that vignette to see if there was any facial reactions to any players. Only Kyle Beach induced Garth to say something to someone next to him, but it was probably more in reaction to EJ's supposition that maybe Kyle and Kyle (Okposo) would be on the same line if picked.
Then CJ brought up Garth and Ted Nolan. Now, if you don't know anything about me, I am a big one for body language. I was interested to if these two would sit comfortably, or how they reacted to one another. Much has been varnished over from the cracks within the veneer during the height of the season between the two. But I wanted to see how they stood or sat together with my own eyes.
Garth stood, cool, calm and collected. He seems self-assured and comfortable. But he does not sit, instead standing tall next to his chair. Ted Nolan stands behind his own chair, his hands affixed to the top of it. That chair creates distance between him and Garth. I find that an interesting juxtaposition to internal feelings, subtle yet very clear. Ted is using the chair to create more distance and his own space. Perhaps even a bit defensive. Maybe some thing. Or it means nothing. But I always find body language to be fascinating.
The questions and answers, though all good, just don't say much to enlighten anyone on anything more that Garth is looking for skill and natural talent and will be picking the best player. They are not looking for just positional. Because who knows what there needs will be a few years down the line? This is refreshing, especially after some terrible gaffes by Milbury in the past taking positions over talent. It created middling players who never developed here.
The bottomline to the evening, is that it was a shame that not more people came out. There was much opportunity for anyone to press hands to Isles brass, GM, coach and players (Gervais and Sim), and to glean much more than the few words the local news have been providing. Not that Newsday wasn't there. Katie Strang was there with her notepad. Greg Logan is still enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Brad Kurtzberg, from Inside Hockey, was also present. Also there was Nick Giglia http://www.lilighthouse.com
, who is one of the good guys behind Long Island Lighthouse Political & Economic Development Alliance who are making themselves active to make sure the Lighthouse Project Hub keeps on track.
Luckily, there are more of these this summer. Whether it is the next Open House in early June, or the June 20th Draft Party, which will be hosted by John Buccigross
, there is ample opportunity for those who want more information and relationship with their favorite hockey team to get just that.