TAMPA, Fla. — At a radio station booth set up near the entrance of Thunder Alley, the sun-splashed plaza outside Amalie Arena on Saturday, Paul Damato — wearing a John Tavares All-Star jersey — raised a replica of the Stanley Cup over his head as his family recorded the moment on their cellphones.
For Paul, his dad Anthony, and two brothers, Justin and Vincent, it was their first game of the second-round series, but the trip wasn’t easy.
“We got here Wednesday because we all heard that Game 1 was on Thursday and we get here and it was too late to get tickets,” said Anthony, who lives in Marlboro, N.J. and gets to 10 to 15 Islanders games a season. “I’m not crazy about the sight lines at Barclays but it’s better than the alternative, them moving out of the area altogether,” he said. In fact, they already have tickets for Games 3 and 4, which will be a much shorter journey. “Been waiting for this a long time.”
Two hours before Saturday’s matinee on the plaza, not far from a truck selling rib-eye cheesesteaks called The Dude and his Food, the Scherwins were waiting for the arena doors to open. It was a special day for their daughter Lia.
Jeff Scherwin, who left Massapequa in 2003, and remembers Nassau Coliseum fondly, drove 90 minutes from Orlando with his wife, Rachel, and Lia, who turned six on Thursday and was attending her first Islanders game as a birthday present. Lia’s favorite player? Who else? John Tavares.
“If there’s a game the night before, she’ll always wake up and ask who won,” said Rachel. “We [Jeff and I] were at the game three weeks ago [on March 25, when the Lightning won 7-4] and she wasn’t sure that she wanted to come today because she didn’t want to see them lose.”
Few Islanders fans likely had traveled as far as Paul Tyczkowski, 41, who grew up in Shirley: Almost 1,100 miles.
Standing in the shade by the ticket windows with his parents, Patricia and William Wieners, who now live in St. Augustine, Tyczkowski said he flew from Quakertown, Pa, and then drove three-and-a-half hours across the state with them for their first game here.
Tyczkowski, wearing a Frans Nielsen jersey, had a 12-game regular-season ticket plan and has caught the Isles live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, among other locales. He was in Brooklyn for Game 3 against the Panthers and the series-clinching Game 6. “But I allocated some money for this trip,” he said. “Maybe the third one will be lucky too.”