Well, it is my first blog entry on my website. There is not much point to my website but I think given I use the e-mail for my work then it is wise to use the website. The content will be pretty static, but I have added a blog because I want to start to write about my travels and interests.
Since taking the decision to go contracting, I have been able to travel more than previously. One of the highlights of 2014 was my trip to New York City. I have to say NYC is certainly my favourite place on the planet so far. This has been helped by the new love I developed there… Ice Hockey and the New York Islanders.
It is fair to say my only experiences of Ice Hockey prior to heading to New York City were The Cardiff Devils from when I was a kid, and NHL computer games (which I loved). I did not understand the sport and never thought I could love another team in any sport, given the amount of emotion, money and time I put into The Arsenal.
I had pre-booked all my sporting tickets before I headed to New York, I was heading to the MSG to see the New York Knicks and because of this I felt it would be better if I went to see an Ice Hockey game elsewhere… hence my trip out to Long Island.
I remember the trip very well, the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station was great, I had no issues getting there but the train station near the home of the Islanders really was in the middle of nowhere. I am fairly familiar with Hempstead now but at the time I remember thinking to myself that I should have gone back to the MSG for a Rangers game! I eventually found my way to the stadium and I was taken back by the characterful stadium, the Nassau Coliseum (or The Old Barn as it is affectionately known).
My first game was to see the Islanders face the Pittsburgh Penguins, a rivalry that had been quite tasty in the past (YouTube taught me this). I was fairly close to the ice and I remember the entrance music drawing me in immediately, the clincher was when the puck dropped though. The intensity of the sport and the physicality of it was immense. The hits on the glass were incredible and I was so close I could feel them! I was instantly hooked and soon I was whooping and high fiving with my fellow islanders supporters.
After the end of the first period, I immediately went to the club store and purchased my customised jersey (which cost a fortune) but I was hooked and I was officially an Islanders supporter. The game did not go as well as we lost from being in front, it was already a terrible season for the Islanders but I didn’t care… I was one of them!
When I got back to Manhattan (not an easy journey), I immediately amended my plans and booked tickets for the next game against the St Louis Blues. I also booked the stadium series match at the Yankees stadium but that was the Rangers vs the Devils. That too was an incredible experience seeing a hockey game at the Yankees stadium but -18 degrees spoiled it, plus, I was an Isles fan now so these teams were our rivals!
On the way to the Old Barn for the Blues game I met some guys who were over from St Louis and they taught me a lot about the sport and were a great laugh. The banter has continued almost a year on so I was glad and lucky I bumped into those on the way to the game!
When I got back to the UK, I immediately subscribed to NHL Game Center so I could see my team and that is where the love for the sport started and my 12am – 3am stints (twice a week) began.
I made another pilgrimage to New York this year to see 5 Islanders games in 8 days which was incredible. The home run of games allowed me to cram so much hockey into one week and I brought home some great signed merchandise too.
Sadly, The Islanders only made Round 1 of the playoffs and say goodbye to the Old Barn for a soulless Barclays Centre in Brooklyn next season. However, I am so happy to have been several times to the Coliseum and met so many incredible people on my travels there. I look forward to my next trip when the new season starts but it will be very sad to not be the amazing Nassau Coliseum where it all started for me!
Let’s Go Islanders!