~~Islanders Awed by Yankee Stadium Atmosphere but Prepared to Face Rangers


Howard Goldin


Bronx, NY---The New York Islanders made their first visit to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a practice session on the ice and to experience the aura of Yankee Stadium. The words of the players were similar both towards the seriousness of the Wednesday night contest against the Rangers, the opportunity to play outdoors as they did as youngsters and of the awe-inspiring atmosphere of Yankee Stadium. This article will document only the views of captain John Tavares and assistants Kyle Okposo and Andrew McDonald as they are representative of the others on the team.


All here reminisced of playing outdoors when they were children. Kyle Okposo recalled, "I played outdoors a couple of blocks from my house."


The two Canadians expressed similar memories. John Tavares remembered, “In Ontario, I played a lot outside. Growing up playing outside was a lot of fun.” He felt the memories come back 100% while on the Yankee Stadium rink, “Feeling the air and hearing the sound of the puck.” Andrew McDonald only felt the cold affect his ears and his toes. Of his childhood hockey experience, he stated, “This is where it all started. [We had] random ice patches, not a real rink.”


Being in a historic venue that houses an organization that considers great success a normal expectation every season had meaning to all who came on Tuesday. The American [Okposo] seemed most familiar with Yankee attitude, “I have a ton of respect for the Yankees. To have an attitude of winning at all costs is a terrific way to run a business, an organization. When you come out there and it’s Yankee Stadium, it’s pretty cool. It’s awesome.”


McDonald described his feelings coming out on the field and anticipated how special Wednesday night’s game will be for the players, “You can feel the history of the Yankees team when you walk out of the dugout and see the Stadium. The Yankees are the most recognizable team in the world. I’m really looking forward to it [the game on Wednesday], being in the elements surrounded by 50,000 people. The ice will seem a little small compared to [the size of] the Stadium. It’s a very special experience. The fans will really enjoy it. The players will really enjoy it.”


Tavares, a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, was nonetheless impressed by the facilities in the Stadium, “They did a great job here. It’s unique. It’s going to be fun.” The team captain had a great experience at Tuesday’s practice, “It was really a great day. My family was here with me.” The players skated on the ice with family and friends after the practice concluded.


The importance of the result of every game to the islanders is huge. They are in last place in the Metropolitan Division, nine points behind the second place Rangers. A victory in each forthcoming contest is a necessity for them to qualify for the playoffs. Every player, the coach and all of their fans recognize this truth.


Tavares optimistically remarked, "There's still a lot of hockey to be played. We know we have to play a lot better." McDonald commented, "These are an important two points. We're going to be prepared." Okposo spoke of the uniqueness of each contest, "Once the puck drops, it's another game."


The second highly anticipated and final outdoor game in New York City will be played before a sold out crowd of 50,000 fans on Wednesday night. It will be another great day in NHL and New York sports history.