Thursday, April 17, 2014

Islanders Clean-Out Day 4/14/14

After the New York Islanders finished their 2013-14 campaign on April 13 in Buffalo, it was time for them to clean out their lockers and go home for the offseason. I had heard some rumblings on twitter that cleanout day would be on Monday, April 14. Since I was home and had nothing to do, I drove to the Coliseum bright and early.

The best part about Nassau Coliseum is there is virtually no security near any of the entrances. I don't think I could have walked into the locker room, but I was able to park anywhere I wanted and find where the players were leaving. After parking in the wrong spot, I realized my mistake and made it to the right spot at about 8:45 a.m.

As soon as I parked my car, I saw a person in a striped shirt walking toward the parking lot. Before he could get there, the three or four fans waiting stopped him. Before I could think, I grabbed my stuff and locked the door. I was soon told that the person near me was goalie Evgeni Nabokov. After fumbling through my bag to get my stuff for him, I approached him. I had a few cards and a picture of Nabokov. But it wasn't just any picture.

It was a meme that I won a Steiner Sports Meme Contest with. Yes, I made it myself. As a prize, I got $50 in Steiner gift cards, which I still haven't used, and a framed copy of the meme. I decided to bring the framed copy of the meme with me in case I saw Nabby. I handed it to him with the sharpie and he instantly smirked. I told him I won a contest with that, and I asked if he could write 'I'm focused' on it. "They'd get me in trouble for that," Nabokov said. He signed the cards as well and I got a picture of him signing for another fan before he got into his car and drove away.

Shortly after Nabokov left, I found out that veterans Eric Boulton and Radek Martinek had left before I got to the Coliseum. However, when I was talking to the other people there, defenseman Travis Hamonic walked out the door. The door he walked out of is under the white banner in the photo on the right. He stopped and signed for someone else, then he signed his page in my Islanders yearbook in silver. I didn't print out any pictures or bring too many big items with me, as I have met most of the players already and didn't have too much notice before going to this. After he signed, he took a picture with me and went to his car.

After Hamonic, a few more fans showed up. The next two players, Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen, came out at the same time. They both signed their photos in the yearbook for me. I didn't get a picture of Frans, who bolted out as fast as he could.

But as Bailey was leaving, he ran into Justin Johnson, 32. Johnson, who beat up Buffalo's John Scott the day before, had just made his NHL debut a few days earlier. The two of them talked for a few minutes. Johnson didn't say whether or not he would be back next year, but he gave Bailey a hug on his way into the Coliseum. Bailey left in a hurry after that and Johnson went inside to finish whatever he had to. The goodbye was sad to watch, as there is a chance Johnson won't play in the NHL next season, if ever again.

 The next player to walk out the door was injured defenseman Brian Strait. He came out wearing a cast on his left wrist, which he hurt during the season. He was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh before last season, and scored his first NHL goal during the playoffs against those Penguins last May. He signed his page in the yearbook for me, then took a picture with me. By the look of the picture, he could use some deodorant.

 Ryan Strome was the next person to come out the door. If you don't remember or haven't heard, I almost got into some trouble for reporting a Ryan Strome injury in January. But that has long since passed. He signed his page in the yearbook and took a picture with me like many of the other players. A lot of the girls there liked him, and someone commented on his Toronto Blue Jays hat. His signature has definitely changed from the first time I met him in November. It's getting sloppier by the month.

As Strome was leaving, Calvin de Haan and Cal Clutterbuck walked out the door at the same time. I met de Haan the same time I met Strome back in November and I already had a picture with him, so I went over to Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck was nice, and he signed my yearbook in silver with someone else's silver marker, and de Haan did the same.

I went to take a picture with  Clutterbuck after, and I couldn't find anyone to take it, so I took a selfie with my digital camera. I think it came out well. You can see de Haan taking a picture with a fan in the background of the photo on the left. I learned that Clutterbuck has a lot of tattoos, which you can't see under his jersey during games.

The Islanders just kept coming out, as defensemen Matt Donovan and Lubomir Visnovsky walked out the door within a few seconds of each other. Donovan had already signed my yearbook in Albany back in December, so I didn't need anything else from him. Visnovsky was carrying his bag of equipment, so when he stopped to sign for someone else I approached him with the yearbook. He signed the yearbook quickly. I ruffled through my bag and took out a puck which he also signed with his unique signature. After that, I asked him if he would be ready for next year. "I hope so," Visnovsky said.

Kyle Okposo came out after the two defensemen, and he signed for everyone very quickly. I put four cards and my yearbook out on my clipboard for him, and he signed all of them in under 10 seconds. I had to rush to take a picture of him signing for a little kid, and the black string you see in the picture is the string from my camera. He signed really quickly and went to his car, gone for the season. 

John Persson was next out of the Coliseum. He said he was headed back to Bridgeport, and he actually played in the Sound Tigers game that night. But before he could go to Bridgeport, he stopped and signed for everyone, including me. He signed his part in the prospects page of the yearbook for me, then was on his way back to the minor leagues. 

Then a person who shares the same birthday as me walked out the door. That person is none other than Colin McDonald. He signed my yearbook, then signed for some other people as you can see below. I also took a picture with Colin before he left. He seemed happy that someone had the same birthday as him. 

After Colin, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson walked out of together. I met Anders Lee every time he and the Sound Tigers came to Albany this season. While a few people went over to Anders, I went over to Brock. After he signed my yearbook, I tried to find someone to take a picture of Brock and I, but everyone was preoccupied. So, I took another selfie. This one also turned out well, if I do say so myself. Instead of getting an autograph from Lee, I told him I had met him a few times in Albany and thanked him for his time. After that, Lee and Nelson realized they forgot something in the Coliseum and went back inside.

Shortly after that, Justin Johnson emerged again, and I didn't need his autograph. Instead, I took a picture with him and told him he did a great job in his fight the day before. I hope he ends up somewhere, he is a great team player and good person.

One of the other Islander tough guys, Matt Martin, emerged into the daylight after Johnson had left. Martin walked over and started signing for everyone. While he was signing, music started playing from someone's phone. Quickly after checking his pockets, Martin realized his phone was ringing. He hung it up and put it back in his pocket very quickly after. As a bunch of girls clamored over Martin and his awesomeness, he signed his page in the yearbook and a program for me. I also took a picture with him, but not until after all the girls there took photos with their crush. 

The people from
kept coming out the door. Mike Halmo was next, and he was as nice as everyone else. Like everyone else, he signed my yearbook and took a photo of me. I took a brief video of him signing, and you can see that HERE. In the video, someone gave Halmo a few tickets from the game he scored his first NHL goal in, which is a nice souvenir. He was on Bridgeport's top line for most of the season, playing with Lee and Strome, but they all got separated when they were in the NHL. While Halmo was signing, Brett Gallant also came out and signed, but I didn't get a picture of him. I got him on his section of the yearbook.

Earlier in the day, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield left the Coliseum and said they would be back in 20 minutes. About 40 minutes after they left, they were back. I immediately went to Hickey, who was the only Islander to play in all 82 games this season, and thanked him for staying health as he signed the yearbook. Mayfield then signed the yearbook and the two of them went back into the Coliseum after signing for everybody and taking many pictures, including the one I took with Hickey.

The last two people out the door were Johan Sundstrom and Kevin Czuczman (pronounced Church-man). I quickly approached Czuczman, who was walking away, and got him to sign a random page in the yearbook that had an Islanders logo. I'm pretty sure it was an ad for physical therapy. He was signed by the Isles straight out of college in March, and didn't have a page in the yearbook. I wonder how he started signing his name as a kid and ended up with the signature that you see on the right.

Sundstrom had sustained a concussion late in the season, and he said he would be back playing for Bridgeport as soon as he could when I asked how he was feeling. He signed his part in the yearbook.  After that, I shook his hand and took a picture with him as he signed for all of the other fans that assembled. There were about 20 people outside the Coliseum at the peak of the day.

After Sundstrom, the only people that I could think of that weren't out yet were Michael Grabner, Matt Carkner, and captain John Tavares, I heard that those three had parked their cars in the underground parking garage, which is not accessible to anyone but the players and Islanders staff. All of the other players were parked in the same lot as me near the side door.

I didn't want to wait hours for those people to show up, since I had already met Tavares and Grabner. At about 11:45, I went to my car, took the picture below, and drove home, ending a good day of graphing my favorite team. If you have any good stories of meeting the Islanders, share them below. I'd love to hear them in the comments. Thanks for reading! Good luck graphing.

See you next year Nassau Coliseum!

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