Kyle Okposo has been a Buffalo Sabre for a little more than a week, but he took some time to thank the Islanders and their fans for the last nine seasons.
Okposo wrote a thank-you message on The Players’ Tribune yesterday recounting his favorite memories as an Islander and thanking fans for cheering him on during the good times and sticking with him during the bad ones.
“I’m not a perfect player,” Okposo wrote. “I went through some pretty rough times with my game. The Isles’ fans and organization stuck by me. I’ll forever be grateful for that. The organization could have easily cast me aside and gotten rid of me, but they helped me through it. When I would go to an autograph signing or an appearance during those tough times, the fans would say, ‘Stick with it’ or ‘We love your game.’ Those things brought a smile to my face.”
Okposo, who signed a seven-year, $42-million deal with the Sabres in the opening minutes of NHL free agency on July 1, called Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Penguins “far and away the most memorable game I played” at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders lost in overtime, 5-4, in the Coliseum’s first playoff game since 2007 and Okposo’s home playoff debut.
“It was a noon puck drop, and we were staying at the Marriott next to the rink. I remember waking up to the sound of fans chanting ‘Let’s Go Islanders’ in the parking lot. I walked over to the window and pushed the curtains back. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. Hundreds of Islanders fans at 7:45 in the morning, already cheering us on. There was no sleeping after that. My stomach dropped. I thought, ‘Oh, [expletive], I can’t let these fans down now.’
“I remember hearing the noise of the crowd while we were sitting in the locker room before the game. It was shaking the building — literally shaking. The floor was bouncing and guys’ suits were banging off the walls of their lockers. Nothing needed to be said before that game because we were all so jacked up to play. That sound. That energy. I’ll never forget it, it made you want to run through a wall for your fans. Anyone who was at that game can remember the first six minutes. We took a 2–0 lead and there was no way you could hear what the person sitting next to you was saying.”
Okposo thanked several of his former teammates, including:
n Josh Bailey — “Watching him grow up, get a girlfriend, get married and become a man, that was special to me. I’m going to miss being around him and his family and watching him become a father. ”
n John Tavares — “John Tavares was my roommate his first season. He was a bit introverted and just a shy young man. To watch his transformation into the player and person he is today has been truly special. He’s taught me a lot of things about what it takes to be the best. The Islanders organization is lucky to have him wearing the C.”
n Frans Nielsen, who signed with the Red Wings in free agency — “Wise beyond his years, observant and just one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. If you got $100 for every time someone said something bad about Frans, you’d still be looking for your first Benjamin.”
Before concluding that he’s excited about playing for Buffalo, Okposo wrote, “I’ll never forget my time as an Islander. It was so special to me. Thank you so much to all the Isles fans who stuck with us through thick and thin. Your loyalty meant so much to me and the team.”