Evgeny Nabokov, Rick Dipietro and Al Montoya – Islanders Children’s Foundation Casino Night
Islanders Children’s Foundation Casino Night
My Dad and I went 2 the first New York Islanders Children’s Foundation Casino Night where all of the Islanders goalies added their ‘graphs to theGoalieStick.com
Prior to purchasing tickets for the casino night, I called to see if it was OK if 2 bring theGoalieStick to the event. They said that it’d be OK as long as I got the ‘graphs during the VIP pre-party. My Dad said he’d drive me out there if I bought the tickets. It was on a weekday, & I knew traffic on the jersey t-pike would make 4 a long road trip. [is it just me or is there always an overturned tractor-trailer on the GWB?]. We left in the morning and stopped at my brother’s in North NJ 2 have lunch w/ my sister-in-law, Julie [& so i could finish my makeup] before heading the rest of the way 2 the island.
Despite looking 4 my fave little black dress for days, I never found it so I wore black pants w/ a cute red cut-out back blouse. It was a good thing I didn’t go w/ a dress b/c it’s hard enough helping my dad w/ his wheelchair wearing 5” heels at hockey games, so i’m not sure a dress would have made it easier. My Dad bought a new suit, which my mom found off seeing as the last time he’d bought a suit was sometime b4 the Flyers won their first Stanley cup. I’ll fast forward over the rest of the road trip (for now).
The Islanders Children’s Foundation [ICF] Casino Night was at ‘The Inn at New Hyde Park’. We were a little early b/c of avoiding traffic & waited in the lobby. My Dad knows what most of the Philly sports players look like but didn’t know a lot about the Islanders before now. I showed him lots of pics including my album of ‘unmasked’ goalie’ hockey cards so he’d know what they looked like. My dad thinks John Tavares looks a lot like young John Lecair. Prior to the trip the only thing my dad really knew about the Islanders is that they’d cheated the Philadelphia Flyers out of a Stanley Cup when they scored on an un-called off-sides. Personally I don’t think this is the New York Islanders fault, but the referee’s fault. I mean what was the Islander supposed to do — go to the ref & say he was offsides and the goal shouldn’t count? So if anything my dad should be mad at the refs for that — not the Islanders. I read (other) stories about the islanders from the internet to my dad during the long drive there so he’d know stuff about them. My dad liked the stories about Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky most. He also liked hearing about John Tavares growing up.
Sidenote: I read on the back of a hockey card that Sam Gagner (whose Dad also played in the NHL — Dave Gagner) built a hockey rink in their backyard when Sam was growing up. He taught Sam (and his best friend John) how to play hockey & the boys would spend every spare minute playing on the backyard rink. Who would have known Sam’s best friend John would end up being a number 1 draft pick? I have to image that Sam must have been a pretty popular kid in the neighborhood to have his own backyard rink [and NHL player-dad].
Additional Sidenote: I later learned that another NHL player grew up in the same town as Sam & John, although the hockey card didn’t mention if he too played on Sam’s backyard rink (though I am VERY curious to know whether or not he played with them growing up). I’d imagine John and Sam would have needed someone to mind the net for them on their rink and can’t help but wonder if they didn’t scour the neighborhood for a goalie, & get Steve Mason to strap on the pads for them every once in awhile.
When the VIP hour opened we received Casino Dollars, tickets for prize baskets & an Islanders Canvas Logo. A photographer took a really nice photo of me and my Dad in front the ICF Logo Press Wall. That was really cool! [They even gave us a copy of the photo which was really sweet]
After the photo, we wanted to look for the goalies so I could have them sign my Goalie Stick at the smaller VIP event before there were too many people. We found Rick DiPietro first. He was a blackjack dealer. A lot of people had told us before the event that Mr. DiPietro was really great with fans & they were right, he was really sweet. He signed my goalie stick [in orange sharpie], posed for a photo with me & signed an Islanders hockey puck for my dad.
Next we looked for Al Montoya at the ‘Money Wheel’ game. Mr. Montoya was also really nice & added his goalie ‘graph to the others. I didn’t realise until he posed for a photo he was THAT much taller than me. I’m wearing 5″ heels in the photo & he’s still a lot taller than me. Mr. Montoya also signed one of my Dad’s Islanders pucks.
Note: Mr. Montoya is with the Winnipeg Jets now, having signed during the summer free-agency. That’s really cool b/c now I’ve got a Winnipeg Jets Goalie ‘Graph without flying 2 Canada & don’t have to deal with getting the stick through customs.
The last Islanders goalie ‘graph I needed was my fave [shhhh don’t tell Mr DiPietro or Mr. Montoya I said that] — Evgeni Nabokov [Nabby]. He was the San Jose Sharks goalie for the longest time ever & is wearing a sharks outfit in every one of the hockey cards I had before this year, so it was sort of strange 2 see him wear an orange & blue sweater. We didn’t see Nabby right away so I found a table to leave my dad with The Stick & my purse to check out the food. They had a really nice spread including a Sushi Chef, Turkey Carver, Oyster Bar, Shrimp Cocktail setup & lots more. I was nervous being around so many cute hockey players so I wasn’t really hungry but tried some stuff & brought my Dad food. Even though I don’t like alcohol, I thought it was nice they offered the guests a full open bar. I got my dad a diet soda and still water for me. Then I left my dad with my purse & our other stuff to find Nabby. He was at the slot machines. I asked if he’d mind signing The Stick in ‘San Jose -Blue’ Sharpie [Not the real name of a Sharpie color — how cool would that be though — just a color I thought looked close to San Jose Blue]. I told him it was OK he was an Islander now, I’d just seen him in a pretty color sharks outfit for so long and their team has the prettiest colors in the NHL so I thought it’d be cool if he signed in San Jose Shark Blue. [He signed a Sharks Puck for my Dad too]
[Sorry… Another] Note: If anyone with NHL’s marketing division or the Sharpie Marker company is reading this, a line of NHL Team color Sharpie Markers would be really sweet for Autograph Collecting. They could even be marketed as NHL-Team Color Sharpies for fans to make signs/posters at games as well & for kid’s sport-themed art projects. ‘San Jose Blue’, ‘Philadelphia Flyers Orange’ [which appears to be slightly different from ‘New York Islanders Orange’]. Don’t forget the second prettiest NHL color, ‘Colorado Avalanche Purple [or is it burgundy? I have no idea & wish someone could take the guesswork out of this] There could even be special editions for ‘Retro/Vintage’ like the cotton candy color blue outfit the Penguins wear. And versions for 3rd Jersey Colors like the christmas green & red on the Wild’s 3rd Retro jersey. There’s plenty of opportunity for limited edition special event Sharpies like ‘Flyers Winter-Classic Orange’ or that weird green color on the Devils uniform they wear once a year to pay homage to their current goalie’s first uniform on ‘Retro Jersey’ Game Day*. LA Kings fans will need their über Limited [Serial Numbered] Stanley Cup Edition of the ‘LA Kings Purple’ Sharpies packaged in a silver plated case etched with all the Stanley Cup Winning Kings players names. [Another missed marketing opportunity for the NHL to increase HRR]
*Interesting Fact – Did you know that Martin Brodeur is the only active NHL player to have played wearing his team’s ‘retro’ sweater AND the actual uniform the throwback jersey represents?
My Dad had my camera when Nabby signed my stick but later in the night I was able to get a photograph with him. My dad doesn’t really understand how to work the camera — you know how you have to hold the shutter half way down to ‘focus’. He sits low in his wheelchair so when pics do come out, they’re at a bad angle. After Nabby said he’d pose in the picture, the closest person was one of the Islanders skaters, so I figured I’d have them snap a picture instead of my dad. I tapped the skater on the shoulder and asked if he’d take a picture “for me”. He must have thought I meant take a picture “with me” like I wanted him pose in a photo and have someone else take our photo together. I tried to explain I wanted a picture of me with Nabby but my dad doesn’t know how to work the camera so I needed someone to operate the camera, taking a photograph of me posing with Nabby. It was one of the really young, cute Islanders so I’m pretty sure this was the first time a fan had passed him over in favor of Nabby. This seemed to amuse his teammates & they started chirping him about being passed up for the [apparently less-requested-to-pose-in-photos] Nabokov but he (graciously) took a photograph of me & Nabby.
My dad likes Tezas Hold ’em so I’d left my dad at a poker table with Michael Grabner, one of the Islanders my Dad actually heard of before that night. I’m not good at Poker (or gambling for that matter) & my short attention span won’t last more than a hand or two at Poker. I also can’t remember which hand beats which other hand and apparently it’s ‘frowned’ upon to request this information during a game — when I usually need it. I decided to check out the rest of the event having left my dad [and purse & stick & stuff] playing poker with Mr. Grabner & others.
The front of the room had tables setup with player’s baskets [like the ‘favorite things’ baskets teams auction off for charity]. In front of each basket the guests drop in tickets. [We got a few with our Casino Night Dollars]. When the guests ‘cash out’ casino ‘winnings’ they get more prize tickets. I checked out all of the baskets to see who had the coolest stuff so I could put my dad’s tickets in the basket I liked best. Just about everyone at the event put their tickets in John Tavares’s basket. My Dad would have like to also, but seeing as there were so many tickets in his basket & not a lot in the other baskets, mathematically speaking it made more sense to try & win a different basket. At least that’s the argument I presented to my Dad so he’d let me put all the tickets in the goalies’ baskets. I did put one ticket in Mr. Tavares’s Basket — you never know. Al Montoya’s basket had an autographed used goalie stick so I thought his was the best basket and gave my casino dollars to my dad since he’s good at Poker & he’d win tickets for me. I bought more Casino Dollars later that night, but just traded them in for prize tickets instead of playing anything.
I did spend some time sitting with my Dad while he player poker, talking to Michael Grabner & other guests. My Dad told Mr. Grabner how we were from South Jersey, & (being our local NHL team) have Flyers season for tickets. We’d driven to Long Island to attend their charity event because [as I’d discovered during the season] apparently the visiting goaltenders are not very fond of even their own fans in Philadelphia. While I gave it a good effort, having realized even the least popular team’s goalies don’t care for their Philadelphia-based fans, I’d have to go to each of the OTHER NHL cities if I wanted to get all the NHL goalies to sign my stick. Mr. Grabner told my Dad the Islanders were visiting Philly the following week so we thought it was cool we’d get to see them play so soon after meeting them.
I carry around a photobook of cool pictures. Some of them I took myself, some I found online & thought were cool and some are cool designs I made from photographs. Nabby was playing poker at our table & I showed him my fave NHL.com Frozen Moments photograph of himself & and our [red-light] Russian goalie one of the NHL photographers had shot during warmups the last time the Islanders visited. I like the pictures because both of the Russian goaltenders are are doing symmetrical mirror image stretches on their respective sides of the red line. Nabby told me Ilya’d start playing better soon and signed his half of the photo for me. I personally disagree but politely kept my opinion of his countryman to myself.
There was a silent auction with autographed memorabilia from different sports teams & other NHL teams and later a live auction, where John Tavares’s All-Star Jersey received a $10,000 bid. The Islanders also auctioned off an opportunity to travel with the team for one of their away games. Two guests got into a bidding war which after exceeding $10,000 the Islanders agreed to create a second opportunity so both bidders could win the ‘travel-with-the-team’ trip. That was really nice of them.
Besides playing poker with Mr. Grabner, my Dad was excited to meet Mike Bossy. Mr. Bossy was really friendly, signing a puck & posing for a picture with my Dad.
The Islanders GM is Garth Snow. Mr. Snow used to be a goalie for the Flyers & I was excited to have an opportunity to meet a Flyers goalie while in Long Island. My Dad told Mr. Snow how we’d traveled from South Jersey/Philly area [Flyers Territory] to attend their Casino night because I wanted to add the Isles goalie ‘graphs to my The Stick.
My Dad thinks I should start another stick and collect ALL the Flyers goalies ever. Then when we travel to get NHL goalie ‘graphs if there’s ex-Flyer goalies there, I can get add their ‘graphs to my Flyers goalie stick. My Dad even offered to give me a cut autograph of Pelle Lindbergh to attach to the stick, so I’ll be able to get ALL the Flyers goalies.
Note: Wayne Stephenson passed away (brain cancer) in 2010, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a cut autograph of his to add as well.
I brought a Flyers puck, hoping we’d get to meet Mr. Snow & he’d be OK signing a puck with a Flyers logo since he’s the Islanders GM. He not only signed it for me but he also posed for a photo in front of the Islanders Children’s Foundation Logo Press Wall with me.
My Dad had been asking me all night to ask John Tavares’s to sign a puck for him but there were always a lot of people around his Black Jack table. Anyone who knows me refuses to allow me to play blackjack. I was also asked to leave the the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Not because I count cards but because I refuse to pull a card when I have 12 and the dealer has a 10 showing. It was sort of awkward bothering Mr. Tavares because he had so many people around him the entire night & we weren’t playing blackjack at his table. At the end of the night right before cash-out there was a spot at his table. I tried really hard to play BlackJack for a little while so I could ask Mr. Tavares to sign a puck for my Dad. He did but I still felt sort of bad for him. I would like to say that despite looking exhausted from a long night of entertaining fans, Mr. Tavares maintained a smile on his face the entire night & did his best to ensure every guest he met felt appreciated for helping to support the Islander’s Children’s Foundation. As he was the most popular player there and likely the reason many people had bought tickets to the event, he’d been extremely bust the whole night. I’d been watching him through the night (but not in a creepy way) and could tell he was getting a little fatigued towards the end, but he never turned anyone away and was super-nice to everyone, even people like me who weren’t really playing at his table but just pretending to for a few minutes to get his autograph (for my dad).
Once I cashed out my dad’s Casino dollars, I put few tickets in each of player baskets that had cool stuff. I put 1 in John Tavares’s overflowing basket — just in case, but put most of them in Al Montoya’s basket b/c it had and autographed used stick.
We didn’t win any baskets but had a lot of fun at the event. It was extremely well organized & entertaining. Even the Islander players looked to be enjoying themselves while mingling with fans. For the entire evening, the Islanders players were super friendly as they signed autographs & posed for pictures with guests. My Dad especially enjoyed himself & continues to tell people about the event. He appreciated the opportunity to meet Mike Bossy & Garth Snow but had the most fun being able to spend several hours playing poker with Michael Grabner. As you can tell from the pictures, I was excited to add 3 more goalie ‘graphs to my Warrior Swagger.
PS: I’d also like to say we didn’t have any difficulty or access issues with my Dad’s wheelchair. The valet people at the Inn provided assistance getting the wheelchair in and out of my car. My heels were a bit higher than I normally wear so it was a little more difficult than it usually is but the valet attendants were extremely helpful. Every aisles inside of the event room was wide enough to maneuver, the gaming tables were the right height for wheelchair accessibility and there wasn’t any area of the ballroom was in accessible or restricted from wheelchair access. It is a very rare occasion that I’ve attended events with my dad and not had even a minor accessibility issue to some part of the event area, so I wanted to commend the New York Islanders, event organizers and staff at the New Hyde Inn for ensuring such ease of access to the entire event.
This was the first Casino Night organized by the Islanders. The event raised over $120,000 for the Islander’s Children’s Foundation.
Link to Photo Gallery of the Islanders Children’s Foundation Casino Night Event from Islanders Web Site:
Link to Islanders Children’s Foundation webpage with information on making a donation:
PS: Mr Grabner, Thank you so much for making this such an enjoyable event for my dad. I told my dad to let you know we were from South Jersey and why we’d gone to Long Island b/c I didn’t want you or your teammates thinking I was stalking any of you if you happened to see us a few days later in Philadelphia, having just met all of you at your event in Long Island.
As I’d been slightly worried you’d find it strange seeing us in Long Island and then Philadelphia a few days later, you can imagine my concern over the extremely rare set of of circumstances that resulted in our sitting directly behind the Islanders player benches at a game in Tampa a few weeks later. As well as the even stranger but entirely coincidental running into yourself with Mr. Okposo & Mr. Moulson having dinner in Tampa the night prior to that game. I’m sure at some point in time, seeing the same person in several cities [especially while having dinner] might raise some concern so I wanted to explain the whole Tampa to make sure you knew that by no means was I stalking yourself or your fellow teammates.
My dad, uncle and grandpop went to Tampa for the Philly’s Spring Training. During which time I’d been been forced to endure 3 afternoons of baseball. If you’re not familiar with the sport, there’s no hitting, fighting OR cute goalies. To be fair Chase Utley is sort of hot, but he’s not a goalie and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even at Spring Training that weekend. As you probably know from visiting several times a year, while the beaches can be nice during the day, Tampa doesn’t have much of a nightlife. Rather than spending our evenings in the hotel (being forced to watch Basketball — another boring sport with no hitting, fighting or cute players), I took it upon myself to buy tickets for everyone to the Saturday night Tampa Bay Lightning game. As my uncle had planned the spring training even long before the NHL published their season schedule, it was pure coincidence your New York Islanders happened to be visiting that same weekend.
As I was buying tickets for the game, I became aware that most other NHL teams don’t have the same pricing tiers as that of the Philadelphia Flyers. I’m fairly certain the last time ice row seats could be purchased for $100 for a hockey game in Philadelphia, I probably hadn’t been born yet. So you can imagine my surprise and instant response to the opportunity to purchase extremely close-to-the-action seats for an NHL game for $100/ticket. The only section where there were 4 seats together happened to be behind the visiting team benches. If they’d had 4 seats by where the goalies play, I’d much rather have played there — no offense, but you can see I’m a big goalie fan.
It may also be difficult to believe but as I travel a lot for work, I’ve developed quite the fondness for extremely expensive Filet Mignon. Thus I selected one of my favorite steakhouses in the Tampa to celebrate my grandpop’s birthday. I would like to point out that I had absolutely no knowledge you & your teammates would also be enjoying a meal at that fine establishment which I will not give the name of, so you can continue to enjoy peaceful meals when visiting the area. Thus again it was entirely coincidental that we happened to pass by your table as my family was leaving. As someone who appreciates a REALLY yummy steak, that chain of steakhouses just happened to be one of my favorites.
Interestingly enough, after we’d arrived at the steakhouse, my dad mentioned we were near the Yankees Spring Training facility (not something I was aware of when choosing the location to have dinner). While I don’t personally have a fondness for the sport, I’d kept an eye out for Derek Jeter or A-Rod. This is likely why I hadn’t even noticed you or your teammates until we were leaving. I apologize if we interrupted your dinner, I don’t like to do that to people but my Dad wanted say hi because he remembered meeting you/ I also thought it would be a good idea if he explained the circumstances that would have us sitting behind you the next night so you’d know it was purely coincidental. I was slightly concerned your seeing us in several various cities at this point would result in your asking security to escort us from the Tampa Bay Times Forum the following night upon seeing us seated directly behind you.
I hope you understand that while you’re certainly one of the more attractive players in the league, I was not in any way following or otherwise stalking you or your teammates in any way. If I was going to stalk someone [which I am not nor have I ever considered] it would be a goaltender as you are probably aware by now, I have a thing for the masked me.
If you have a moment and scan through my posts, you’ll see that all the goalie ‘graphs I’ve collected have been at organized events, often charitable functions, where I pay / donate for each of the goalies’ autographs.
Note: Following the hockey game in Tampa, on the advice of some of the arena employees, I did wait outside the players parking lot with other fans in an attempt to obtain Dwayne Roloson’s ‘graph (as I couldn’t find any event in the are during the time we’d be there that he’d be signing at). I would like to say that [a] i felt very uncomfortable in doing so [b] I met some of the people who actually DO stalk players — some of whom do not even like hockey — they just stalk celebrities and know WAY too much about their personal habits as they relate to arriving / leaving the arena [c] did not even get to see Dwayne Roloson before my dad, uncle & grandpop decided they no longer wanted to spend the evening standing outside the arena in the extremely humid evening Tampa weather. [d] very much prefer waiting in line or attending events such as the one organized by the New York Islanders Charity Foundation to stalking hockey players outside the entrance of the arena. My dad also agrees attending events / organized signings is a much better means of obtaining goalie ‘graphs moving forward.