The mission was to honor families of fallen firefighters and police officers and to present them with tickets to the Islanders’ second-round playoff opener on Friday.
But as co-owner Jon Ledecky and “Sparky” the mascot rode in a team-logoed van Thursday from a firehouse two blocks from Barclays Center to a police precinct two blocks from Madison Square Garden, a buzz was evident.
“A lot of them whispered in my ear, ‘Good luck in the playoffs; I’m a Rangers fan,’ ” Ledecky said of his visit to the Midtown South Precinct. He didn’t mind. The more support the merrier.
“Not only was it great to be with those families, who were so worthy of being honored and receiving tickets,” he said, “but it also was so great to see that level of support from the NYPD and the FDNY.”
Naturally, longtime Islanders supporters offer the best support of all. He called it “the diaspora of Islanders fans.”
“They’re super-pumped,” Ledecky said. “It almost feels like ‘Islander Nation.’ It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Firefighters at Engine 219/Ladder 105 wore Islanders caps as they met Ledecky, as did Sean Jordan, 17, who was born two weeks after his father, Andrew Brian Jordan, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Islanders planned to give the family four tickets for Game 1, but Ledecky offered another handful for Game 2 after Sean said his brother could not make it to Friday’s game.
Sean, who is from Westhampton Beach, said he is a lifelong fan. (“I was born into it,” he said. “I was raised into it.”) While he gave credit to the Hurricanes’ spunk, he already was peeking ahead to the Bruins after what he predicted will be a tiring seven-game series against the Blue Jackets.
“Could be an easy path to the Cup [Final],” he said.
Such is the state of Islanders fans’ minds, with all four division winners eliminated and the race for the Cup wide open.
Ledecky made no predictions, but he did acknowledge how much fun this has been.
“First of all, it’s for the fans, because we have the greatest fans in the world, and they have been so loyal and so terrific,” he said. “The excitement both in metro New York and Long Island is palpable.”
Tickets for the second round were put on sale Thursday morning, and by early afternoon few were left, the co-owner said.
Such interest has helped drive ticket sales for next season, and in the longer term could help with the transition to a new building near Belmont Park, where “things are moving forward right on schedule and we’re very happy about that,” Ledecky said.
He reiterated the importance of a new facility, but for now the Islanders must make the best of a compromise that allowed them to play first-round games at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum but now has landed them at an arena where they have not played since Feb. 16.
Is he still satisfied with the arrangement?
“I’m happy if [commissioner] Gary Bettman’s happy . . . '' Ledecky said. "Gary has been a tremendous force for good in terms of the Belmont arena. His support has been unwavering and terrific. So we’re supporting what the NHL believes is in the best interest of the league.”