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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Islanders Fans: Come In And Feel The Draft

Having made the playoffs this year for the first time since 2007, the New York Islanders secured the 15th pick in the first round of the 2013 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft on Sunday, June 30.

This is a positive development when considering the Islanders were playing so poorly in 2009 that the team qualified for the first overall draft pick. They made a great one four years ago, selecting forward John Tavares. Tavares was the Islanders’ leading scorer during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, with 47 points (28 goals, 19 assists) in only 48 games. He was also a Hart Trophy finalist, an honor given to the NHL’s most valuable player.

Isles fans have in recent years been able to travel to the Nassau Coliseum for the organization’s NHL Draft Party, and that tradition will continue on Sunday, June 30, with the Coliseum doors opening that day at 1:30 p.m. The general public can access free passes to the Draft Party online via www.newyorkislanders.com, with an eight-ticket limit per individual. The live stream of the NHL Draft, to be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, will be shown starting at 3 p.m. To supplement that coverage, IslandersTV will interview throughout the telecast Islanders executives who are involved in the NHL draft as well as the players the Islanders select.

Besides Tavares, the current Islanders roster is filled with talented players they chose in the NHL Draft, such as Frans Nielsen (2002), Andrew MacDonald and Kyle Okposo (2006), and Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, and Matt Martin (2008). Martin, Eric Boulton, Matt Carkner, and Ryan Strome will attend the event to meet the Islanders faithful in attendance at the June 30 Draft Party. They’ll be joined by Sparky, the team’s official mascot, and members of the Ice Girls.

Tours of the player locker-rooms, team merchandise sales, street hockey contests, and Islanders Community Events (I.C.E.) Tour interactive games are popular features for the younger crowd, who are allowed to walk the Coliseum’s floor. Their parents may prefer to check out the Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit, featuring the jerseys, sticks and skates used by NHL legends.The American Red Cross will host a blood drive prior to, and during, the 2013 Draft Party. Fans can donate blood in the Nassau Coliseum’s exhibition hall anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on June 30. Donors will receive two free tickets to a select Islanders home game during 2013-14’s regular season.

The renewed interest in the Islanders can be seen in a number of ways, like dramatically improved TV ratings and invitations to NHL showcases, both of which would have been hard to imagine even two years ago.

The Game 6 MSG+ telecast this spring of the NHL’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, for instance, was the highest-rated Islanders game ever on that cable network, dating back to when MSG+ began tracking household ratings during the start of the Islanders’ 1991-1992 season. The team’s previously highest-rated single-game MSG+ telecast came on March 25, 2002, in a contest against their archrival, the New York Rangers.

Given Tavares’ star power, and the Islanders improved standing within the league, the NHL announced last month that the Islanders will play the Rangers on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at Yankee Stadium as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net