The crowd Sunday at Nassau Coliseum picked up where they left off during the 2013 postseason and continued to “Rock the Barn.”
Thousands of Islanders fans poured into the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to kick start the 2013-14 season. Doors opened at 1:30 for the Islanders’ 2013 NHL Draft Party, where fans enjoyed locker room tours, meet-and-greets with Islanders players and prospects, giant inflatables, a Ferris wheel and unique items from the Hockey Hall of Fame before the Islanders announced their first pick. In addition to the fun and games, the American Red Cross was on hand to accept blood donations.
“Every year I look forward to the draft party - it is one of my favorite days of the year,” said lifelong fan Kyle Rapon from Bethpage. “Every summer I call my father and we come down. It has become a family tradition.”
Fans got a chance to mingle, take photos and get autographs from current and former Islanders. “Mister Islander” himself, Bob Nystrom, enjoyed the festivities and meeting the energized Islanders faithful throughout the event.
“It is always really exciting coming to the draft parties,” Nystrom said. “I have such a great time with the fans. It’s an exciting time for the Islanders and every team, and I love coming back home. After a playoff run where the players truly gave it their all and have taken a giant step, we are really encouraged about next year, and I think they are going to do great.”
The fans relished the opportunity to take a tour of the locker rooms and see where their favorite players get prepped for the games. The chance to meet a few fan-favorites for autographs and pictures was a dream come true for so many committed fans.
“I think to see an outcome like this shows that hockey is on everyone’s mind throughout the offseason,” Strome, the Islanders fifth overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft, said. “Everyone is excited about the upcoming season. Seeing these fans makes me wish we were in training camp right now.”
As the draft began, fans gathered into the stands and watched on the video board to see whose name Garth Snow was going to announce. Fans took guesses at who would don the orange and blue sweater on stage. The crowd was ecstatic when Snow announced his selection, Ryan Pulock, a defenseman from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
“This pick was great,” Kevin Mazill, a fan from Glen Cove, said. “Pulock has an incredible slap shot. I really thought they were going to pick a goalie but this is the perfect way to go.”
Pulock and the rest of the Islanders 2013 draft picks will be on hand for mini-camp the second week of July, which culminates with the Orange vs. Blue Scrimmage on July 11 at 7:00 p.m.
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