After a lockout shortened season in which the Islanders had the Penguins on the brink of elimination in the playoffs, they regressed mightily. After last year’s debacle, the Islanders wasted no time improving the team for the present and the long-run. This year looks to be promising.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of the newest Islanders Cory Conacher to discuss his decision to join the Islanders and to detail his journey to the NHL and what he hopes to bring to a young talented team.
First off, welcome to the Islanders organization. Could you tell the fans a little bit about yourself and your style of play?
- Thank you, I am super excited to join this organization and the culture that they abide by. I believe that my game can fit very nicely with the speed and youth in this lineup.
- As a player, I like to be considered as a gritty two way forward that has the ability to make big plays at big times. I believe that I am a very solid complimentary player that can create room for my line-mates and force turnovers in the offensive zone. I have the habit to crash the net and hang out around the net when we are on the attack. I also take a lot of pride in back-checking and fore-checking with a fearless mentality.
- As a person of the ice, I dedicate my time to fans and community involvement. Especially in the summer, I like to give back to those who support me through my journey. I am a positive and fun person to be around, and I love to spend time with my team in a more personal setting.
Your journey to the NHL is an inspirational one. Especially for younger athletes. How hard was it for you to grow up with diabetes and keep your dream of playing professional hockey?
Honestly, I didn't want diabetes to define my journey. I was fortunate to have such a supportive family, and such caring friends that my diabetes never defined who I was as a player. My parents always bought me the best technology so my diabetes was manageable on and off the ice. I try to relay this message to children with diabetes at my events so they know that diabetes does not have to be an unachievable obstacle in the journey to pursue their dreams.
Growing up, who were your biggest supporters?
My family was there to support me unconditionally, and always provided me with the best care and tremendous amount of support. I have two brothers and a sister that were all involved in hockey, and my parents spent countless hours in arenas getting all of us to our games and practices. The best part about it is that I was never treated differently because of my diabetes. My grandparents can't go without credit as well, because they never missed a beat when it came to our extracurricular, and still to this day they never miss our games. My grandma always expects a big two points a game!
How hard was it for you to go undrafted and then having to prove to everyone that you belonged in the NHL?
It was never hard for me to go undrafted because there was never a point in my life where I expected to be drafted. It wasn't until college when I started to live by the quote my dad always used “if your good enough they will find you”. I was able to develop so much in college, learning from a coach that always gave me the best opportunity to preform to my peak. Ever since college it was all about opportunities, and taking advantage of those opportunities.
You made your NHL debut in 2012 with Tampa Bay, what was that like?
Considering Marty St. Louis was my idol growing up, it made for a very special night that I will never forget. He brought me under his wing and made me feel comfortable going into my first NHL game. To be able to share that night with my friends and family who had flown all the way to Tampa to watch me play added to the special experience. I was so grateful to be given that opportunity from Guy Boucher and Steve Yzerman.
Later that year, you were traded to Ottawa. How hard was it to leave the organization that gave you your first shot?
It was extremely hard because it was the first time in my life that I was traded. I had built so many good relationships, especially with the young guys who I got to win the AHL Calder Cup with the year before. It was probably harder for my fiancé who had to stay back and pack up and bring home our eight-week-old puppy. Once we got to Ottawa however, we were welcomed with open arms, and right away I felt like I was part of the Senators family.
How hard is it to be traded to another team, in-season or off-season, and having to get acclimated to new teammates and new surroundings?
The best thing about the hockey culture is that you can literally walk into a change room for the first time, and feel like you have been there many times before. Every player sits on the same goal, and that creates an immediate bond between players.
Moving on to free agency this year. First you weren’t qualified by Buffalo and then you signed with the Islanders for a year. Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to the Island? Was it the rich history of them? The eventual move to Brooklyn? Or the opportunity to play with Tavares?
It was a little bit of everything- I know that the team is young and very fast, and that's the style of game that I like to play. I was fortunate enough to meet Tavares this summer, and he gave me Intel on the culture of the team, and it got me that much more excited to head there in September. Both Long Island and Brooklyn are great places to both live and play, and I am excited to get involved in the community there and to meet the fans.
Did any of the current Islanders reach out to you before you signed to help sell you on the Island?
I signed on the same day that I had received the offer, so there was no opportunity for Islanders players to reach out. I knew this was the right opportunity, and therefore I did not need persuasion to sign my contract.
You’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end. How much would it mean to stay long term with the Islanders?
I would love the opportunity to stay with the Islanders. Like I said, they are young and fast and I see a very bright future, one that I would be grateful to be a part of.
The Islanders have aligned themselves with some great talent up front and will be able to count on all four lines on a nightly basis. How do you envision yourself fitting in the line-up with so much competition heading into camp?
I am a pretty adaptable player, and can move throughout the line up and adapt to the players that I am with. I am a complimentary player, and I try to help out my line mates by creating opportunity as well as taking opportunity given to me. I am very excited about the healthy competition of forwards that the team has set up for camp.
You chose to wear the #89. Is there any significance or meaning to go along with it?
#89 is my birth year. I started with 89 during my AHL career and it has stuck with me for the most part.
Lastly, are there any personal goals you would like to accomplish this year?
I want to be a player that the coach can rely on for consistency, where he always knows what I will bring to the table day in and day out. I also hope to get my foot in the door with this team for years to come