A Time To Give Thanks And Accept Islanders Reality: An Usher’s Story

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Once I was able to get myself off the couch after consuming what seemed to be about twenty pounds of food to celebrate American Thanksgiving, I was taken aback by the below story that was shared with me through Facebook.

It’s about giving thanks to all that we have, not necessarily what we want, and in that thanks, learning acceptance for the way things are. It comes to us from a former Nassau Coliseum usher who not only lost his team but his job. Without further adieu since I cannot really do it justice, continue reading below…

 

I’m thankful for the 15 seasons I spent as a Nassau Coliseum usher.

I’m thankful that I started there the same season that Peter Laviolette, Michael Peca, Alexei Yashin and Shawn Bates all came to Uniondale and woke up a slumbering and suffering fan base.

I’m thankful that I decided to purchase tickets for my then girlfriend and her brother to Game 4 vs Toronto and that in the bedlam following that Penalty Shot goal I was able to look over and see her in section 313 while I waved my usher’s tie like a rally towel. I’m thankful that was the moment she fully understood my hockey obsession and that she still does today as my wife.

I’m thankful that I became friendly with a guy I used to call the undefeated middleweight champ of the NHL, Aaron Asham.

I’m thankful for that time a young Britney Spears walked past me, brushed my arm with her hand, smiled and said ” How ya doin Y’all?” That one never gets old.

I’m thankful for all the strange and wonderful people I met who came from all corners of the globe to watch a hockey game. Celebrities… A member of Russian Parliament who asked me to tell him who all the Russian players were and was anguished when I replied ” Today sir, only Nikolai Khabibulin.”

And all the small people with big stories…. Chris Campoli’s family who told me ” All our son needed was a chance and the Islanders gave that to him.”

Brooks Laich’s Highschool wood shop teacher from Saskatchewan who the day before an afternoon tilt at the Coliseum had come under fire in Rwanda with his 7-year-old boy who he’d brought to Africa with him while he volunteered as a teacher… Had to flee the village that had taken them in and still had tears in his eyes wondering if the children were safe…. But decided to catch a hockey game during his lay over on their way back to the Great White North.

I’m thankful for Kenny Jonsson. Such grace. Such class. Said Coach Steve Stirling to me one quiet evening before the gates opened as the Zamboni hummed behind us… ” If you combine on and off the ice the greatest player Ive ever Coached.” I hope his illness goes away.

I’m thankful for getting to hug and high-five Ralph Macchio after an OT winner last year.

I’m thankful for each and every time a fan reached out and asked me to take a picture… It was my pleasure.

I’m thankful for that time early last season when a father with two young boys and his Dad in tow asked me to take one … and as I readied for the shot said to his sons ” Smile big boys…. This is Grand Dad’s last trip to the Coliseum.” The old man teared up just as I snapped that picture… And then so did I.

I’m even thankful for the Ranger fans…. Many of whom would tip me generously to let me know they were good guys… Usually the older ones who still remembered what it was to root loyally for a struggling team.

But most of all… I’m thankful that I still get to watch my Islanders… It may be hard. The train may be too crowded sometimes. And nothing beats getting paid to be at a hockey game.

But we still have a choice. Whaler’s fans don’t. Nordiques’ fans don’t. But we do.

I’ll take those great days and nights to my grave. To be a tiny little cog in the NHL machine…. God I felt so big.

How many times did people walk up to me at the top of an aisle and say ” Well, you’ve got a great job, huh?”

Amen. I sure did.

Happy Thanksgiving. – Usher Matty

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