Top Five: Players Off The Ice

After my freshman year of college my parents, just like everyone else’s, were on my case about getting a part-time summer job to get me out of the house.  Of course I was looking around for jobs but I couldn’t find much, my sister on the other hand had been working for the Islanders in Game Ops and her boss at the time told her that he had an opening to be one of the Sparky the Dragons.

Say what you want about being a mascot, but it was so much fun and because I took that job that summer it enabled me to get the internship in Bridgeport and through these two experiences I have had to honor to meet many players, most who are great guys but some stand out more than others. 

Here is my list of the top five players that were not only good hockey players but, they are guys that you want to root for.

5. Andrew MacDonald- I met MacDonald while working an event as Sparky.  We were at a camp, like most events, and MacDonald was the Islanders player who was in attendance to sign autographs and play some floor hockey with the campers.  I was able to chat with MacDonald during the event when I wasn’t in costume and he is one of the nicest guys I had worked with. He made time to chat with the kids about school and answered all of their questions.

4. Aaron Ness- Maybe it’s because we are similar in age but, I got to know Ness throughout last season and he was always interested in chatting.  Whether it was about what to do on days off, last season was Ness’s first year of professional hockey, or just talking to talk. He is really a down to earth guy.

3. Trevor Gillies- First and foremost say what you want about Gillies and his play on the ice but he was the man off the ice. I got to know Gillies, like Ness, very well throughout last season, whether it was chatting after the game or talking in the elevator he was a genuine guy.  He always asked about what you were up to, every time he was chosen to be at the autograph table after a game, he would have a conversation with every fan that came for an autograph.  He is one of those guys that played the game for the fans, he really enjoyed it.  It’s sad to see him leave this season.(Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)

2. Josh Bailey- I worked with Bailey after his second season with the Islanders and he is one of the true nice guy athletes.  I mean granted he is only 22-years old and was 20 when we met but he seemed like he was just enjoying what he had. Being a professional hockey player at such a young age, he really embraced it.  He also thought it would be funny when we played floor hockey with the campers he would aim for certain parts of Sparky.

1. Casey Cizikas- Cizikas was the nicest guy this season for the Sound Tigers.  Like Gillies, Cizikas was great at the autograph table always chatting with the fans and staying as late as he could and would always make conversation with anyone that he crossed paths with.  You could tell that he knows what he has and he truly embraces it and doesn’t take it for granted. Cizikas is not only a great hockey player but he is also a great guy.(Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr)

Now these aren’t the only Islanders players, past and present, that are great guys, but these five have really made an impression with me. These are the kind of players that you root for to succeed because not only are they good hockey players but they are great guys who haven’t taken what they have for granted like many of the athletes we see today.

-Pete Paguaga
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