Remembering 1993 with Darius Kasparaitis

The members of the 1992-93 Islanders team will be honored for their memorable run to the Prince of Wales Conference Finals on Oct. 29

Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 1:37 PM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Remembering 1993 with Darius Kasparaitis
Selected by the Islanders fifth overall in the 1992 NHL Amateur Draft, Darius Kasparaitis was a fresh faced 19-year-old just looking to break into the big time. The Lithuanian defenseman made his first trip to North America just four days prior to the start of the 1992-93 season, arriving on Long Island on Oct. 2.

Little did he know that he’d make the Islanders Opening Night roster.

“It totally shocked me,” Kasparaitis said. “It was my first year in the United States. I came from Russia (playing for Dynamo Moscow) and I wasn’t expecting to play in my first NHL game. Basically, I was thinking I was going to go to the minors. When they put me in the lineup, I was very shocked.”

Darius Kasparaitis skates on the ice during an NHL game circa 1993 at the Nassau Coliseum. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)
The Islanders' first four games of the season were on the road, so Kasparaitis traveled with the club to New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston before making his debut at Nassau Coliseum. Finally, the day after his 20th birthday, Kasparaitis played in his first home game.

“I had a great time as a rookie because I had no idea about the league,” Kasparaitis said. “Every new game and new town was a new experience. I didn’t know any names. I heard big names like (Mario) Lemieux and (Wayne) Gretzky, but I just came as a young player and I played my heart out every game.”

Though he knew little about the league, Kasparaitis was well aware that the Pittsburgh Penguins were the reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champions. And as the Islanders faced them in just the second game of the season, Kasparaitis said he did feel a little intimidated. The Isles would fall 7-3 that night, also taking a 4-3 edge in the season series.

In their first round playoff series, the Isles defeated the Washington Capitals four games to two before moving onto the Patrick Division Finals against the Penguins.  Going into that series, Kasparaitis still felt the nervousness that went through him when he first stepped onto the ice against Lemieux and the Penguins. 

“I don’t think we had high expectations in the playoffs,” Kasparaitis said. “We just went in and played hard. We played as a team and we believed that we could win at least one game (against the Penguins). When we won the first game, it gave us a lot of confidence that we could beat them.”

The Islanders defeated the Penguins in Game 1 before dropping the next two. The two teams split the next two match-ups to bring the series to 3-2 in favor of the Penguins. Desperate, the Islanders would even the series at three games apiece, setting the stage for David Volek's legendary overtime series winning tally in Game 7.

“Beating Pittsburgh was definitely the most memorable moment for me,” Kasparaitis said of his rookie campaign. “That was the greatest experience. No one gave us the credit that we could win even one game. When we beat them in Game 7, there were a lot of people that were surprised. Even our Islanders fans didn’t think that we could do something that was, at that time, unthinkable.”

As the Islanders returned to Long Island to begin the Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens, Long Island hockey fans were full of excitement for the first time in nearly a decade.

“People were really pumped up,” Kasparaitis said. “We gave them hope that maybe we could win the Stanley Cup again. That was a tough loss to the Canadiens (losing four games to one), but I didn’t realize until now that that would be the closest I’d come to being a Stanley Cup Champion. When you are a young player, you always say you’re going to have another chance, but sometimes you don’t get that chance.”

Kasparaitis will forever remember the season that he began his 13-year NHL career.

“I played a lot of years in the league, but I’ve never matched the excitement of my first year in the league with the Islanders,” Kasparaitis said. “I never had expectations, I was a rookie and the team just took me as I was. I always say that my first year was probably my best year.”

It means a lot to me, that we’re going to be honored. When you’re an Islander, I guess you’re always an Islander. That was my first team. That’s when everything started for me as a professional hockey player. - Darius Kasparaitis
Coming back to Long Island to celebrate that memorable season is one that Kasparaitis is excited for.

“It means a lot to me, that we’re going to be honored,” Kasparaitis said. “When you’re an Islander, I guess you’re always an Islander. That was my first team. That’s when everything started for me as a professional hockey player.”

He continued, “I’m always going to have great memories in my heart for the New York Islanders. They treated me with respect and they loved me on Long Island. Playing for other teams throughout my career, I never was treated so warm and with such a great appreciation from the fan base like I did on Long Island.”

The Islanders will honor the 1992-93 Patrick Division Champions on Saturday, Oct. 29 when the Isles faceoff against the San Jose Sharks at 7 p.m.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 76 34 40 -3 74
R. Strome 75 15 32 19 47
K. Okposo 54 15 31 -10 46
F. Nielsen 75 13 28 9 41
B. Nelson 76 18 22 9 40
A. Lee 70 23 16 12 39
J. Bailey 64 15 23 4 38
J. Boychuk 66 8 25 9 33
T. Hamonic 66 5 25 16 30
N. Leddy 72 10 19 15 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 35 16 2 .915 2.39
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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