"Toughness is in the soul and the spirit, not in muscles." (Alex Karras)
Good news ~ the warrior Brendan Witt should not miss any time as a result of the cut to his head that occurred in the game against Buffalo. When interviewed about his injury he said, and I quote, "Brendan Witt - 1, Nassau Coliseum ice - 0." He is the definition of toughness. He guts it out night after night and plays hurt. He is not a superstar - but he is solid and steady. In previous blogs, I've mentioned that my oldest son (who is 11) proudly wears a Witt jersey - and he also tries to mimic Witt when he plays defense for his hockey team. Witt is not only a good player - he is also a good guy off the ice.
I had the privilege of meeting Witt once - away from the Coliseum. He was making an appearance at an elementary school as part of the Isles literacy program. He was there with Josef Vasicek. They were finished & had already left the building and were walking across the parking lot to their cars. I happened to also be making a visit to that school that day (I have my own business on the side wherein I present a fun, interactive educational & mock trial program to 5th graders). We were in the parking lot - they were done with their appearance - there was no reason for them to stop & talk to me. But stop he did.
I introduced myself to Witt and he shook my hand & asked me why I was there that day. I told him a little bit about my program and he stood there listening intently (OK - maybe he was feigning interest but he waited patiently until I was done). He asked me a few questions about the program and then asked if I was a fan - which of course I responded yes, and told him about my son. He offered to autograph something for me to give to my son. We are not autograph collectors in our house so I said "thanks, but I didn't have anything with me." He wished me luck, told me to say hi to my son for him, and went on his way. Immediately one word came to mind - Gentleman.
In this day & age of overpaid, Prima-Dona athletes who can't be bothered to spend 5 seconds with a fan, give a kid an autograph, or give back to the community with making sure they are seen by the press but not bothered by the fans, Witt's attitude was remarkable, refreshing, and only bolstered my respect for him as a professional and a man. Islander fans are truly lucky -- we have access to the team's players & management that is unparalleled in today's professional sports. Between all of the fan-friendly events they run (visit the locker room, bar-b-ques for ticket holders with players present, and special events over the summer with management to talk about the direction of the team) and their many community service activities (visiting hospitals, schools, and camps) the Isles are truly a team that is connected with their community.
Are they the most talented team? No. Are they the best run & managed sports franchise? Of course not. But there is NO doubt they are the franchise that makes the biggest effort to give something back to the community & the loyal fans that support the team.
Brendan -- it's good to know you won't miss any games. My son & I were happy when you agreed to a contract extension. Your toughness on the ice is not the only reason my kid looks up to you. We'll be looking for the old number 32 next game.
Next up... Isles are going to Disneyland! OK, not Disney - but Florida.