Despite the tough season in Islander country, there was a story that despite what happened to start the story, a great ending came about.
In early March, the Islanders were playing at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, as they took on the Winnipeg Jets. In the stands, an 11 year old young man named Jake Lotocki got his chance to see his team, the Islanders take on his home town team. According to his mother, Sue, he has been an Islander fan since he was a very young boy.
Jake got to be in the same building as his favorite club, and for him, the Isles pulled off a big victory in overtime, thanks to a big goal by Michael Grabner. The win was the start of a successful road trip, without their captain, John Tavares, who was injured during the Olympics representing Canada.
Unfortunately, during his visit to the arena, Jake was wearing his blue 91 Tavares jersey with obvious pride.
However, according to the article by Paul Friesen in the Winnipeg Sun, it was not a good way to end the evening, despite the Islanders win.
“We just sort of got caught in this crowd of, I imagine, intoxicated young men, who didn’t treat my son very well,” is how Lotocki put it. “People were swearing, and so he automatically assumes that’s aggressive. I don’t think it’s appropriate to direct profanity at a child because of what they’re wearing.”
Or for any reason.
Jake was a trooper, though. Told himself to just keep walking and ignore the idiots.
Mom got him away from the crowd, where she thought they’d be able to leave the arena in relative peace.
“And then there was this man who just sort of bolted out of nowhere and ran right up to him, in his face, and shouted at him,” she said.
I don’t know what kind of person can scream ‘You suck!’ or ‘Go home, loser!’ into an 11-year-old’s face. But I imagine they’d yell similar sentiments at teenaged refs or opposing kids at a youth game.
In tears, Jake scrunched up his Tavares jersey so people wouldn’t see it.
“We got in the elevator to the parkade, and somebody started in again,” Lotocki said. “And I just kind of looked at him and went, ‘Knock it off — he’s a kid.’ It’s hard to see your kid upset. I just want to protect him.”
That’s not even something a parent should have to worry about at a hockey game.
Once John Tavares heard about this the next day, he stepped upto the plate, as every Islander fan would expect. He contacted Kimber Auerbach, the Director of Communications for the Islanders, wanting to something for Jake.
Immediately after, John had his jersey sent to Jake, which immediately has been displayed with pride in Jake’s room.
Well – as I heard this news, I knew that a jersey was not enough.
Putting on my hat as the Vice President of the Booster Club, I decided to get into action, and asked the club, to gather some gifts for this Islander fan.
And give they did.
After a couple of games of asking, I got a 20 pound box of items ready to send to Manitoba. I sent a note to Sue Lotocki – letting her know that the Booster Club was thinking about Jake, and wanted to make sure that he has Islander gear, and other Blue and Orange items to show support for HIS team!
As I write this letter, the box arrived in Winnipeg today, and according to Sue, he opened the box immediately and had everything out to show his Mom, upon her return to the house from work. Needless to say, he was extremely happy. He sent a note to the Booster Club:
Thank you for sending me all the cool Islanders stuff. It was very nice of you. And everything is very cool. I am going to wear my new stuff so everybody knows I am a fan of the Islanders!!
I then got this note from Sue:
Jake was so excited to receive your box today. He had opened it before I arrived home and had everything out on the table to show me. He was so thrilled with each and every thing! I can’t believe all of the fantastic gifts you sent. It was incredibly generous of you all. But more than that I am overwhelmed by your kindness and efforts to reach out to Jake.
Jake has always has been and always will be a NY Islanders fan but now Mom is one too. Your club is a great example of true hockey spirit and community and an excellent representation of the values I have been trying to teach my son.
Thank you so very much for this true act of kindness.
I know that every person that helped me in this quest for Jake were so proud of his support and his bravery – standing as tall as he could, despite the bitterness of the Winnipeg faithful.
Mind you, not everyone is a bad fan. I have been to Winnipeg many years ago, and I know that Jets fans were some of the best I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, Jake saw the worst. Hopefully, he will not have to see that again. Next season, Jake will get VIP treatment from the Islanders when they head back to Manitoba. I am sure that Jake will be wearing Blue and Orange from head to toe.
So with the disappointment of the end of the year, 12 rookies in the lineup, and not making the playoffs; this story about a young man nearly 1500 miles from the home if the “Isle”, standing proud with his 91 jersey, makes you feel good about being an Islander fan. Plus, we got another fan in his Mom, Sue.
I know as I write this, it give me a lot of hope. With my current situation, losing my job in about 2 weeks, worrying about what is coming ahead, and feeling a little forlorn, knowing that good deeds by a few people to a young man, made my spirits soar. I head to sleep tonight knowing that in a small way – a group of people made a difference.
Good Night Lotocki Family, and LET’S GO ISLANDERS!