Islanders top prospects draw crowds at Islanders Team Store at Sunrise Mall
de Haan, Romano, Ness, Koskinen, and Donovan get introduced to loyal Islanders fans
Tuesday, 06.14.2011 / 5:45 PM / News
By Brittany Cole
With only four total NHL games between them, five Islanders prospects brought out the fans for an autograph signing Monday evening. Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan, Mikko Koskinen, Matt Donovan and Tony Romano signed autographs for and took pictures with almost 200 fans at the Islanders Team Store at Sunrise Mall.
The five prospects were on hand for the first of a series of summer autograph signings that will feature team prospects and current players along with special merchandise discounts. After signing autographs, the players talked about the importance of getting out in the community and giving back to the fans.
Former University of Minnesota defenseman Aaron Ness said seeing so many fans was a very humbling, but exciting experience.
“I think this is awesome,” Ness said. “It’s good to meet some of the fans already. It’s pretty eye-opening. When so many people come out to an event like this, it’s pretty special. You have to take advantage of it and give back a lot for everything they do.”
Fans lined up outside of the team store well before the 6:30 p.m. start time. They were all eager to catch a first glimpse of the players who are looking to make it to the NHL with the Islanders. For four guys who have yet to wear an Islanders uniform (only Koskinen has seen NHL action), they couldn’t believe the fan turnout and their reactions showed.
“It’s unbelievable having people come out to see me, a person they don’t even know,” said Donovan, who signed an entry-level contract earlier this spring after finishing his sophomore season at the University of Denver. “It definitely makes you feel pretty good about yourself. You have to stay pretty humble, but it’s great to see all the fans out there.”
Calvin de Haan, the Islanders 12th overall pick in 2009, had a similar reaction to Donovan.
“It’s awesome to have people taking time out of their day to come out and see me, and I’m not even on the team,” de Haan said. “It’s just awesome to see this many fans.”
Mikko Koskinen appeared in four NHL games during the 2010-11 season. One of those games was probably last year’s most memorable – the Feb. 11, 9-3 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Koskinen couldn’t help but smile when talking about that game and the fan support.
“It was definitely something different than I’m used to being in, but it was a fun experience,” the 6’6” Finnish goalie said. “And so many people came here today. It shows how much they care about the team and it’s awesome.”
Fans young and old waited anxiously with their jerseys, photos and pucks to be signed by the prospects. Signing for anyone who asked and posing for photos, the event was a little more special for Smithtown native Tony Romano.
Romano, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 2006, was traded to the Islanders on June 30, 2009 and spent the 2010-11 season with the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. This event, so close to his hometown, added extra excitement for him.
“That’s the dream to play for the Islanders,” Romano said. “Being traded here was a big honor for me. I grew up an Islanders fan and just like these fans, I’m a fan.”
Romano said that events like the autograph signings show the significance of how fan support is always needed for the organization. He also knows the importance of giving back to the community. The Sound Tigers awarded Romano the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his contributions in the local community during the 2010-11 season.
“Community events like this are really important, especially for where the organization is at right now,” he said. “With the possibility of them getting a new arena, it’s really important to get all of the fan support you possibly can.”
Fan support is what they got. If Monday night was any indication of how successful the future summer signings will be, the players will see many large crowds with supportive fans.
For more information on upcoming summer player autograph signings and team store discounts, visit http://islanders.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=565234.