Jayson Eisner of Merrick thought he was having a friendly, brief conversation with a restaurant owner.
Instead, the 17-year-old, his brothers, Zach, 24, and Josh, 22, and their father, Troy, 55, wound up with playoff tickets courtesy of Islanders’ co-owner Jon Ledecky.
"He’s a mensch," Troy Eisner said of Ledecky. "He’s a great guy."
Eisner and his sons were back at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon for the Islanders’ 4-1 win over the Penguins, tickets they had purchased before the first-round series began.
But, on Thursday, without tickets for Game 3, the family decided to eat at Borrelli’s Restaurant Café & Pizzeria in East Meadow — a popular spot for Islanders’ fans close to the Coliseum — to be part of the playoff atmosphere.
The waitress told Troy Eisner that Ledecky was sitting at an adjoining table with a group that included Matt Lauer, the former host of NBC’s The Today Show. As game time neared, Ledecky got up to leave for the Coliseum while the Eisners prepared to order a pizza. Ledecky noticed they were all wearing Islanders’ gear and suggested they, too, should be leaving for the Coliseum.
That’s when Jayson Eisner said they didn’t have tickets.
"I didn’t even know it was him," Jayson Eisner said. "I thought it was the owner of the restaurant."
Ledecky asked the Eisners if they were vaccinated and then gave them a phone number to call. They were going to the game after all.
Before leaving, Ledecky posed for a group picture with the family, taken by Lauer.
At the Coliseum, the Eisners found themselves with tickets at center ice, sitting near former Islander Darius Kasparaitis.
"It was my youngest son’s first playoff game," said Troy Eisner, who added his family had season tickets during the Islanders’ Stanley Cup run from 1980-83. "You should have seen the smile on his face."
The story became public — albeit without the Eisners’ name included — when Troy Eisner called family friend Craig Carton to tell him what happened. Carton, the popular WFAN afternoon host, told the tale on radio on Friday.
"Someone told me he does this a lot," Troy Eisner said of Ledecky. "He wasn’t doing it for publicity. He didn’t know I was going to call up Carton."