Monday, February 9, 2009

They didn't get any beads

For those of you unfamiliar with Tampa Bay area festivities, the annual Gasparilla Day event -- from the flotilla to the parade along Bayshore Boulevard -- is one reserved for adult drunkenness and R-rated debauchery.

It's a day for people, from all walks of life, to dress up as pirates. The drinking? It starts before sunrise. No wall, or tree, is safe from bloated bladders. If you're lucky, you'll even see an impromptu striptease by a fetching young woman as she bumps and grinds her way to the currency of the day -- a string of beads.

Thankfully, I suppose, members of the New York Islanders behaved themselves Saturday. Not a single one, when asked, fessed up to receiving a strand of beads. There wore no tri-colored hats nor carried any plastic swords. Even better, not a single "Aaarrrggghhh" was uttered.

What the Islanders did do, however, was sign for anyone who asked. Though a Saturday morning shift at the paper limited my hounding to the gametime bus, I won't complain after adding 26 autographs, including 18 cards, to the collection.

Among the best signers: Defenseman Brendan Witt (top photo) and winger Blake Comeau (who signed the 500th card - the H&P on far right -- of the 2008-09 campaign), who each inked four cards.

Islanders captain Bill Guerin helped to complete our NHL career collection by signing this Edmonton Oilers puck.

I don't mind sounding like a skipping 33-rpm vinyl record (remember those?), but Guerin is one of the more approachable players not just on the Islanders, but in the league as well.

For my own selfish reasons, more NHL players, from top stars to seventh defensemen, should follow his lead. Then again, I stand a better chance of winning a $247 million Powerball jackpot than that happening, eh?

Also signing cards Saturday were, from left, Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais and Radek Martinek.

Other highlights of the abbreviated hounding session:

~ Forward Doug Weight redoing a couple of pucks, initially scored during the Islanders' first trip to Hockey Bay this season, that didn't pass Hound Central 4.0's quality-assurance standards;
~ Forwards Kyle Okposo, Guerin and Weight on the USA Hockey team jersey; and
~ Rookie Josh Bailey sticking with silver for a pair of pucks and cards.

The trip for the Islanders also produced a new Hound Central 4.0 feature -- Gallery, a photographic exhibit of NHL players signing for Hockey Bay hounds.

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