Kyle Okposo in a good place right now
MINNEAPOLIS - It was a familiar sight: Kome Okposo standing in a Minnesota hockey rink, watching his son practice. There have been many such days in Kyle Okposo's career, with his father watching from above.
Monday, however, was a little different. Kome Okposo is about to become a grandfather for the first time and soon might hear that his son will represent the United States at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.
"That would truly be an honor," Kome Okposo said of a berth on the U.S. roster. "But having a baby doesn't hurt, either. This will be a very happy new year either way."
Kyle's wife, Danielle Okposo, herself a pretty decent hockey player at St. Cloud State, is due any day with the couple's first child, a daughter. Kyle is focused on helping the Islanders get out of their first-half funk, but the bigger picture is starting to take over. First-time fatherhood will do that. So might being a first-time Olympian.
"It is kind of all coming together right now," said Okposo, who is second on the Islanders with 37 points. "I'm excited to be a father, I can't wait for that. And with the Olympic announcement coming [Wednesday], I've started thinking about that now a little, too."
The fact that he was standing outside a locker room in Mariucci Arena on campus at the University of Minnesota -- where Okposo starred for two seasons before joining the Islanders in 2008 -- wasn't too bad, either. The team practiced at the university for any number of reasons, but a little nod to Okposo and fellow former Gophers Thomas Vanek and Aaron Ness was pretty high on the list.
"It's special to be here, for sure," said Vanek, who hadn't been back to Mariucci with an NHL team, though he and Okposo skate there often during the offseason. "You see all the familiar things and remember this is where you started to become a man."
Maturity was a theme in a brief talk with Kome Okposo, too. He said his son has "always a been a slow starter, even in college," but Kyle's excellent first half of this season, after spending the second half of last season and the summer on a new workout regimen, comes from a place of newfound self-awareness.
"I think he worked hard to change that mentally," Kome Okposo said. "It's maturity. He seems to know his game a little bit better now. And as a father, I have so much pride in watching him play and succeed like this. This is what he really expects of himself."
Okposo awaits a call from Long Island and soon will dash off to be with his wife. Then he might have to miss time away from family in February if he hears good news about the Olympics, so he doesn't want to miss a minute before then.
"We've got plenty of family around, so if I have to go, so be it," Okposo said. "It's all pretty exciting right now."