New York Islanders: Thank you for my first ever NHL experience

Growing up I didn’t know or understand too much about hockey. I was born and raised in North Philadelphia where the closest we came to hockey was the local sports news when the Philadelphia Flyers segment came on. I didn’t know who the Broad Street Bullies were or what Eric Lindros was supposed to mean to the game. It was all basketball and football for me with a little baseball placed in-between.


But, as I got older and became a sports writer my interest toward hockey grew.

I’ve been involved in sports writing for the past four years now but I stayed away from the NHL. I didn’t understand it but as a Brooklyn Nets fan I traveled to Barclay’s Center countless times and I finally decided to give the unknown a chance. Tuesday (1/24/17) night the New York Islanders played the Columbus Blue Jackets and I was in attendance.

I heard stories that Barclay’s is not hockey friendly. But to be honest, I didn’t see a bad seat in the building. It felt like I was watching a basketball game, despite the cold that took some getting used to. But, it was something about the atmosphere that gave me the chills. The Islanders are not the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the arena was not packed but the crowd was still into it. As a first-timer, I wanted to see one thing. A fight. And I got my wish granted in the first period. I can’t lie, I don’t remember the player’s name that was involved. I was upset that I turned my phone off and couldn’t record it. I was out my seat cheering and when the Blue Jackets player went to the ground, it was as if my family member just won.

I was officially hooked.

I love basketball and football but the speed of hockey is different. It’s fast-paced, back and forth and one mistake with the puck could cost your team a goal. I felt myself yelling at players I didn’t know, at plays I didn’t understand but I had fun. The regulars in my section had no idea this was my first time, as I yelled, they yelled right along with me. At first, I felt a little out-of-place as I scanned the arena to see if I saw someone with my skin complexion but I didn’t receive any dirty stares. I was a fan just like them. Skin color didn’t matter. 

The most exciting part of the game were the breakaways. To see a player make a move through a crowd of defenders is awesome. The crowd gets riled up, jumps out of their seats and it gets crazy. Hockey is a sport I recommend for all sports fans. Nevermind what we were taught growing up in our community, it’s just not for certain races. I thought that growing up and I want to slap myself for staying away for so long.

NHL now has a new fan in Mark Wilson. Thank you, Islanders, for the great experience. We must do this again in the future. I will be in Barclay’s tonight for the Nets and Miami Heat.

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  1. Gregory Calabrese 26 January, 2017 at 10:14

    I was a little late to too hockey as well, I never went to a game as a child. Out of all the big sports in North america hockey loses the most on TV. In-person hockey for me is by-far the superior sport to watch. Action. engaged fans, phisicality, fisticuffs the whole thing is so real and exciting. By change do you remember which section you sat in at Barclays? The Islanders have some of the most rowdy & dedicated fans in New York in section 228.

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