New York Islanders fans aren’t just limited to Long Island or even the tri-state area. In fact, there are large pockets of Isles all across the United States.
I recently caught up with Michael Ryan from the New York Islanders Charlotte Meetup chapter. Maybe I hadn’t been looking hard enough but these meetups seemingly came out of nowhere. From Charlotte to DC, to Tampa and of course on Long Island. Meetups are popping everywhere.
When we’re constantly bombarded with jokes about Islanders attendance numbers and how low they are it tends to create this picture that the Islanders aren’t well supported. Even in their own home.
But with meetup groups all over the continental US, it paints a very different picture. The Islanders are very well supported. When I spoke to Mike. I wanted to know more about the groups themselves and how they’ve grown over time.
How It All Started
Eyes On Isles: I can imagine why you started your meetup, but give me the story as to why you started your meetup?
Mike: I moved down to Charlotte back in 2015. Some friends from home came to visit and we caught a Hurricanes-Islanders game. It was at the game that I noticed just how many Islanders fans are in North Carolina. When the Isles went to the playoffs in 2015-16, that’s when I decided to get a meetup going.
I took to Twitter, just me, myself and I, and put it out there that any Islanders fan can come and watch the game with me at a bar who was in the Charlotte area. A few people like Bryan Compton helped get the word out initially.
A total of six people showed up to the first meetup. By the end of that 2016 playoff series, we were at 20-30 people who were showing up.
EOI: What was the idea for the meetup? What was the goal for the meetup?
Mike: Honestly, I just wanted to watch New York Islanders games with other fans. But as the group grew I just felt that no Islanders fans should ever have to watch a game alone, there are other Islanders fans all over this country. The fan base just isn’t on Long Island.
EOI: Do you meet up at the same place for every New York Islanders game?
Mike: It’s definitely not every game. I like to do one big event a month. I like to pick a good Saturday game, that’s usually when people can show up.
It’s always at the same bar. As you can imagine not a lot of bars have a hockey package. So at Courtyard Hooligans, we take over the place. They get the hockey package for us, they turn the game on all the TV, they turn on the sound. It’s amazing.
At our last event for the Panthers game, we had 40 people show up. We raise money for Thomas Greiss’ hockey camp here in North Carolina.
EOI: The Charlotte chapter isn’t the only one out there. How did that happen and what should someone do if they want to set one up?
Mike: There are six chapter out there right now: Charlotte, Tampa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Long Island and DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia).
Interestingly enough, one of those six guys from the original meetup re-located to Tampa. He loved the group so much he decided to start his own out in Tampa.
The group out in Philadelphia was started by a friend of mine who’s father was the PA announcer for Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum and he’s what got me initially hooked to the Islanders back in the day.
If you’re looking to get one going get in touch over Twitter.
The meetups don’t just watch games on TV. On occasion, they’ll go to the game live.
On December 22nd, the Charlotte chapter is going to a Bridgeport Sound Tigers-Charlotte Checkers AHL game. You can find details here.
On January 18th, the DMV chapter and Yes Men Outfitters is having a meetup for the Isles road game in DC. Where the pre-game will be held at the Irish Channel and sponsored by Long Island’s own Oyster Bay Brewing Company. You can also join them at the game for $63. For details, you can go to the DMV meetup’s twitter account.