Alex Mitchell


amRUSH Podcast Launches Friday

Hosted by amNewYork Metro food and lifestyle reporter Alex Mitchell, amRUSH covers COVID-19 updates, headlines of the day, sports, entertainment, interviews and plenty of ways to make the best of quarantine in addition to plenty more facets of the world starting this Friday.

Previously the host of “BX Express” on BronxNet TV, reporter Alex Mitchell begins hosting amRUSH.


Like Uncle, Like Nephew: How Jim Metzger and Rob Pannell Defined Long Island Lacrosse

L. to R.: Lax All Star Rob Pannell and his uncle, The Whitmore Agency Chairman and CEO James Metzger. (Photo by Bruce Adler)

The concept of success has found deep meaning for Rob Pannell of Smithtown, one of the best professional lacrosse players to ever grace the game. 

As a standout with Cornell University and later with the New York Lizards, Pannell set records and streaks that not only defined the game of lacrosse at the time but also showed the nation what caliber of talent Long Island had to offer. He has even been described by lacrosse experts as “the Michael Jordan of his game.”

That idea of long-lasting, record-setting, and fulfilling success wasn’t instilled by coach pressure but rather from seeing his uncle, Jim Metzger live a life that many would consider to be outstanding. Metzger’s influence on Pannell early on came through the “fun uncle” approach, according to Pannell, who noted the excitement he would feel when a well-dressed Metzger would pull up with his fancy car in the driveway.

“He loves lacrosse more than I do,” Pannell says of his uncle’s passion for the game, noting that he never realized Metzger’s longtime playing capabilities. “It’s incredible. I’ve learned a lot from him.” 

Now CEO of the Garden City-based Whitmore Agency, a leading insurance group, Metzger’s success is also one cradled in many days on the lacrosse field. Metzger was an All American at Hofstra University, though he cut his career short as a personal decision. Metzger isolated himself from his passion for lacrosse for the longest time after that — roughly 25 years away from the sport he loved so much. 

“I lost that connection until I really began watching my nephew play,” Metzger says.

It was only as his nephew became more and more committed to the sport in high school that Metgzer rekindled his love of the game with the intent of guiding Pannell down a path of success.

“Rob wasn’t recruited much in his early high school days,” Metzger says, noting that Pannell “went from good to great” from his junior to senior year at Smithtown High School, putting up a record 130 points that season in the process. 

But Pannell’s senior year breakout was almost too late for him to be scouted by colleges, according to Metzger. Taking the advice of his uncle, Pannell put in a year at Deerfield Academy, where he again set program highs during his short tenure before finally reaching the Ivy League.

“I felt compelled to become involved because I saw his outstanding ability,” Metzger says. 

That ability shined during Pannell’s first season with the Big Red. Pannell became the Ivy League’s rookie of the year and set Cornell University’s rookie record for points in a season, boasting a team-high 67 points while also being the highest-scoring freshman on the year as a first team All Ivy-Leaguer.

Meanwhile, Metzger was there for it all as he “suffered” through the highly intense excitement that Pannell’s collegiate career brought.

“I would make the trip up to Cornell by myself for his games and I couldn’t be around anyone while I watched,” Metgzer says, noting he would go to empty sections of the stands to watch his nephew’s high-stakes games. “Watching Rob plays brings back all the excitement that I felt when I did.”

Nothing was more wild for Pannell or Metzger that freshman year. That’s when Pannell and his 16 postseason points led Cornell to the 2009 NCAA championship, where the team fell 10-9 against its state rival Syracuse University. Though Pannell or the Big Red didn’t capture a national championship, that year was a telling one for the future his career had in store.

“He has a work ethic that I never had,” Metzger says of his standout nephew.

That work ethic showed on and off the field. Playing in the Ivy League, Pannell learned early on that just being talented on the field wasn’t enough to notch total success for the years to come.

Rob Pannell playing for the Lizards.

“You’re in there to get an education,” Pannell says, noting the mandatory study hours he had to commit to as a D1 athlete in the Ivy League. 

That overall dedication and commitment to excellence is what pushed Pannell to receive an Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Award nomination for best male athlete during his junior year in 2011, the only lacrosse player to ever be nominated at the time.

A year later, Pannell was drafted professionally into the New York Lizards, where he would fittingly enough play his home games at Hofstra University, in a stadium which is partly named for Metzger. After all, it was Pannell’s pursuit of the game that inspired Metzger to become heavily re-involved in the Hofstra Pride.

“Playing there, looking up and seeing my uncle’s name is certainly an experience that many don’t get to have and I love it,” Pannell says of his pro days and college tournaments at the Hempstead campus.

While Pannell played beneath James C. Metzger Hall, he certainly made a name for himself on the field with the Lizards. The standout was named rookie of the year while also making an appearance in the Major League Lacrosse All-Star game during the 2013 season, just the start of an explosive professional career. 

Pannell’s third year in the league was a culmination of all the years of his work and his uncle’s proverbial suffering. That’s when he earned a third consecutive All-Star selection, was named MLL All-Pro for the second year, and led the league in scoring with 68 points, 38 goals and 30 assists as one of only pros in history to have at least 30 goals and 30 assists in a season.

That wasn’t even his biggest highlight of the year. Pannell’s offensive capabilities led the Lizards to a championship that season, in a final where he personally put up four goals and an assist against the Rochester Rattlers. He was inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame shortly after that.

“I watch in awe,” Metzger says. “That man can do anything he wants.”

Pannell’s career has found another discipline recently, this one with his uncle at The Whitmore Agency.

Pannell chocks up his success both on the field and more recently in business to the relationship that he and his uncle have sustained throughout their somewhat paralleling careers. 

“He’s the definition of a professional and he’s guided me such a long away to what I am,” Pannell says. 

Metzger also said that the future for The Whitmore Agency with the addition of Pannell and other notable major recent acquisitions will be a big one for 2020.

For right now, the uncle and nephew have a holiday tradition of watching basketball on Christmas Day together to look forward to as Pannell transitions from lacrosse to business, where he will be involved with what he calls “the Ivy League lacrosse mafia of Wall Street” under the wing of his uncle and mentor.

“Family means everything in life,” Metzger says.

His nephew echoes the sentiment.

Pannell adds, “Everyone should have an Uncle Jim in their lives.”

James C. Metzger is as well known for his philanthropy as he is for leading the Whitmore Group.

Zorns of Bethpage: Old Traditions With New Beginnings

Zorn’s of Bethpage is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

Zorn’s of Bethpage has been the comfort food destination on Hempstead Turnpike since opening its iconic blue-and-white doors in 1940.

Since starting as a poultry farm with a plywood sign that attracted travelers to “buy your turkeys here,” nowadays Zorn’s of Bethpage provides all the components for a savory meal rather than just a bird. With chicken and waffles, spare ribs, and even spaghetti and meatballs, the take-home market’s menu encompasses much more than its farmstead precursor.

In May, Zorn’s moved into a newly done restaurant and workspace on its original plot of land in Bethpage while closing its original historic market in the process.

“We are focusing on old traditions with new beginnings, as we open this new chapter in the history of Zorn’s of Bethpage,” said Merrill S. Zorn, the company’s CEO.

“The entire design, build and move-in process has been emotional for me and my staff,” she said about moving into the 8,000-square-foot facility that will also handle Zorn’s catering division.

This new-and-improved space offers a dine-in area, something that many customers have been long awaiting, in addition to other comfortable amenities that mix a Long Island family business history with changing times.

“We will continue to serve up our well-loved traditional recipes,” said Zorn. “Everything you have come to know and love about Zorn’s — our quality, freshness and friendly staff — will not change.”

That’s in addition to turkey dinners, homestyle chicken dinners for one, and mouth-watering side dishes like homemade chicken pot pie, corn nuggets, and potato pancakes, with classics like fries, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese naturally thrown into the mix.

For those hosting one last summer party, there’s Zorn’s backyard picnic package. It provides a rotisserie chicken, a skinless Southern fried chicken, all-beef hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, corn on the cob with butter, apple pie, and watermelon, with (of course) ketchup, mustard, relish, plates, forks, knives, serving utensils, and napkins.

Zorn’s of Bethpage is located at 4321 Hempstead Tpke. in Bethpage. They can be reached at 516-731-5500 or zornsofbethpage.com

Special Edition Snapple Bottles Give Nod to Long Island, NYC

L. to R.: Special edition Snapple bottles for Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.

The “best stuff on Earth” is giving a nod to the best places on Earth this summer.

Snapple shook up specially designed, limited edition bottles for Long Island and each of New York City’s five boroughs’ top-selling flavor of the refreshing beverage.

Called “Snapple Hearts The Boroughs & Burbs,” these unique illustrations include New Jersey’s bestseller as well.

Snapple’s special designs were inspired by the iced tea being “Born in the Best Place on Earth.” Valley Stream in 1972 to be exact.

Here’s a real fact: The Snapple business began as “Unadulterated Food Products,” with its founders Leonard Marsh, Hyman Golden, and Arnold Greenberg self-confessing to having little knowledge about the business. The trio didn’t stumble upon the iconic namesake until bottle caps from batch of carbonated apple juice literally flew off in their Nassau County headquarters.

Fast forward to 2019, the island’s favorite flavor of the massive beverage enterprise is diet peach tea. That special edition chartreuse and white bottle is circled by a picket fence, which serves a symbol for Levittown, billed as America’s first suburb. That label has East Hampton’s famous Hook Windmill rotating as well.

That big red fruit at Citi Field now has some completion since Snapple Apple is the bestseller in the World’s Borough. In addition to Worlds’ Fair and Unisphere references on the Queens bottle, it also gives a tribute to the Ramones through a shadowed image of the rock band with “Hey ho apple oh!” written as well. That Blitzkrieg Boppin’ label also gives a nod to Queens’ Asian and Jewish communities.

Similar to LI, peach tea has been the dazzling favorite for Manhattan and it shows. That bottle got the Broadway treatment with a Theatre District themed redesign featuring the neon sign of Radio City Music Hall in addition to rows of seats at the label’s bottom.

The Bronx saw a redesign of Snapple’s Orangeade, featuring a yellow and orange label of boom box speakers, over the ear headphones and the massive exterior columns of the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium on East 161st Street.

Brooklyn remained classic with a revamp of the brand’s original lemon tea. That bottle has a hipster-like mustache, carousel, and dollar sign chain on its limited edition label.

Staten Island saw re-work of the brand’s Kiwi Strawberry bottle while New Jersey took a new fruit punch label across the Hudson River.

Fans who purchase any three of the 16-ounce bottles with the special labels will also have the chance to win a free ‘Snapple Hearts Boroughs & Burbs’ t-shirt when they text the “HEART” to 21688.

17 Must-Visit Long Island Staycation Destinations

Arbor View House Bed & BreakfastNorth Fork When hitting the wine country, it’s best to find a place to spend the night. And this quaint bed and breakfast on Main Road in East Marion serves up award winning gourmet breakfasts to go with the cozy ambiance.

Bayville Ave

Nestled across from the Long Island Sound on Bayville Avenue in Bayville lies a gem for the young, and young at heart. Single-operator owned Bayville Adventure Park, an arcade, Beaches & Cream ice cream parlor, and The Shipwreck Tavern draw customers year-round to this waterfront community. (Photo by Jennifer A. Uihlein)

In addition to the attractions at Bayville Adventure Park, Bayville Avenue offers a variety of lunch spots and a breathtaking view of the Long Island Sound, Connecticut, and some of  the best sunsets on LI.

Bethpage State Park 

The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Photos by Kevin Kane.

These grounds are best known for the frequent PGA tour stop that is Bethpage Black golf course, but polo matches in this park are one of Long Island’s best-kept secrets as well. If it’s just an outdoor experience that you seek, then stop by the clubhouse for an enjoyable patio meal overlooking the 18th hole of the amateur-discouraged course.

Boardy BarnMaybe don’t bring your parents to this tented, summer beer extravaganza in Hampton Bays. It’s when you’re handed a roll of smiley-face stickers upon entry that the barn’s ‘just be happy’ mantra is most implied. With $3 brews and hot dogs even cheaper, who wouldn’t be so happy? Like most churches, Boardy Barn does much of its business on Sundays with exception to some special events.

Buckram Stables This equestrian-themed mainstay in Locust Valley might as well be the culinary summation of Long Island’s North Shore. The al fresco dining area overlooks a putting green while seasonally themed decorations delight diners choosing a more enclosed setting.

Cold Spring Harbor State Park
Adjacent to the cove that makes up Cold Spring Harbor’s actual harbor, this escalated park
and hiking trail offers views of a scenic cove connected to the Long Island Sound in addition to a miles-long, interval-like workout that the walk consists of.

Grumman Memorial ParkTwo decommissioned, military fighter jets are displayed off Middle Country Road in Calverton. Both the F-14 Tomcat and A-6 Intruder were manufactured at multiple Grumman plants on Long Island back in the day and are now forever immortalized at one of America’s coolest roadside pullovers.

Lido Golf ClubThis public golf course is the closest that Long Islanders can get to Pebble Beach without paying airfare to the West Coast. The links-style course on Long Beach Island offers not only a chance to drive over the water that makes up Reynolds Channel but also has scenic views of the Manhattan skyline from parts of the back 9.

Lobster Roll Whether you call it Lunch or the Lobster Roll, call it outstanding. Even if seafood and
lobster doesn’t do the culinary trick for you, this famed Amagansett eatery will have you covered on french fries alone…not to mention the delectable frozen margaritas. Even if it’s a little tourist-y, the Lobster Roll is worth it for lunch or dinner.

Main Street Greenport

Greenport’s downtown has been lively since the LIRR first stopped there in the 19th century. (photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr)

Just shy of the North Fork’s end, Greenport is an ideal spot to watch the sunset over the Peconic River with full bellies and cheery spirits. The little downtown is also known for its carousel and wintertime skating rink, in addition to cute date spots.

Nassau County Museum of Art

Nassau County Museum of Art

Even if fine art doesn’t tickle your fancy, the expansive grounds surrounding the gallery likely will at this Roslyn Harbor hidden gem.

Old Northern Blvd. 
This quaint Roslyn street beneath the Northern Boulevard viaduct could be a perfect date night spent overlooking the night glow of Roslyn Pond from Gatsby’s Landing restaurant. This little street has options for everyone.

Old Westbury Gardens 

Old Westbury Gardens.

From the captivating mansion to its sculpture gardens, ponds, and fountains, it’s almost impossible to not have a great day here.

The Pie 
What better way to wrap up a fun trip around Port Jefferson Harbor’s Main Street than with some of the best pizza Long Island has to offer. Friendly to those in beach apparel, The Pie offers a variety of specialty pizzas in addition to dynamic entrees as well. Try the meatballs.

Robert Moses State Park 

Robert Moses State Park

One of the few gateways to Fire Island that don’t require a boat ride. The boardwalk that begins at Field Five leads to the Fire Island Lighthouse. Continue walking along the beach to reach Kismet.

Tanner Park 

Tanner Park
The spray park at Tanner Park (Photo by Tim Seeberger/LongIslandPress)

This Copiague park is some of what makes the Great South Bay live up to its namesake. Renovated to encompass waterfront concerts with a restaurant, bar, kids waterpark and walkable pier and water to swim in, Tanner Park can provide one of the most fun, cost-efficient days of family fun on the South Shore.

Young’s Farm 
One of the few rural attractions in Nassau that offers more than just fresh produce. It has an assortment of homemade baked goods as well as rustic home furnishings.

Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman Makes NBA Debut Playing for The Utah Jazz

Justin Wright-Foreman against William and Mary. Photo credit: Hofstra Athletics

It was just a dream for Laurelton’s Justin Wright-Foreman to hear his name called during the NBA Draft when playing only a slim, handful of minutes as a freshman guard at Hofstra University in 2015-16.

Now in 2019, after earning back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the year titles as the second highest scorer in the nation for both total points and points per game, it’s not so shocking why the Utah Jazz selected Wright-Foreman in the second round as the fifty third overall draft pick on Saturday, June 20.

“I feel like I was just a freshman,” Wright-Foreman said in Salt Lake City in the days following his big break.

“For all of this to be going on and everything to be happening, I’m just feeling extremely blessed,” the standout guard continued.

Nearly speechless upon the overnight news, he took to Twitter right after and simply posted “Wow” while still in a state of awe.

Wright-Foreman truly began to roar for the Hofstra Pride in his sophomore season when he evolved into a starting role off Hempstead Turnpike.

It was around JWF’s breakout that Hofstra was faced with the tall and tough task of versing the sixth ranked Kentucky Wildcats at Barclays Center.

Although the Pride fell to the fellow jungle cats by a score of 96-73, Justin Wright-Foreman put on an offensive display that caught national attention for the first time.

“(He was) not afraid of us at all,” Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari said in Brooklyn.

It was so much of a scoring frenzy that Kentucky’s Head Coach even admitted uneasiness about a possible rematch Wright-Foreman and Hofstra during the NCAA tournament.

“I realized that game that these guys were regular players out there,” Wright-Foreman said.

Although that Kentucky game was when the nation was first piqued to Justin Wright-Foreman’s scoring capabilities, Hofstra’s Head Coach Joe Mihalich had seen it while scouting JWF at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering, and Architecture in Jamaica.

“I remember scouting Justin as a senior and thinking to myself, wow this guy really can score,” Mihalich said.

By the time JWF was a junior at Hofstra, Mihalich realized that he was not only a natural born scorer, but it was his NBA skill.

“Players that get drafted usually hold a specific skill or trait that gets them noticed by scouts, his was scoring, he scores like a professional,” the CAA Coach of the Year continued.

That professional scoring skill was put to the highest test during JWF’s senior season when Hofstra trailed rival William & Mary late into the second half.

Wright-Foreman put up a program high 48 points for Hofstra with most of the scoring coming in the game’s closing minutes to complete the comeback in what’s gone down as one of the most exciting games in Hofstra basketball history.

“I’ve never seen someone score like that in person,” Mihalich said.

Wright-Foreman closed out his collegiate career shortly following that momentous evening at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, totaling 2,327 points while consecutively scoring double figures in his final 88 games, the seventh longest streak in division 1 basketball history.

“It shows that dreams can come true at Hofstra,” Mihalich said about the mid-major team.

Before wearing a blue and gold gown and tassel, JWF was selected to play in the 3X3 tournament in Las Vegas where he once again, put on a scoring display that caught the eyes of the nation and NBA scouts this April.

He also forged a bond with former in-conference rival and future teammate on the Jazz, Jarrell Brantley from the College of Charleston.

They along with the rest of the CAA team went on to win the 3X3 tournament along with its $100,000 prize, nearly breaking defenders ankles in the process.

“We’ve just been bonding ever since after going to war for four years,” Wright-Foreman said.

Justin Wright-Foreman officially debuted in the NBA on Monday, July 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies in the association’s summer league. He not only held his own but put up some impressive finishing moves to the hoop in the process.

“It’s going to be a ride,” he said.

The Whys and Hows of Youth Athletics

Parents should have realistic expectations when getting their kids involved in sports. (Getty Images)

Smithtown’s Rob Pannell, one of the country’s most talented lacrosse players, is the type of hometown hero that gives parents hope of their young child later going pro — but he didn’t truly develop until the end of high school.

Many parents question when it’s the right to get their own kids involved in sports and how serious they should be committing to a specific sport and the potential of a college career. The answers to these are simple in the eyes of Long Island sports experts.

“There’s an advantage to being a late bloomer,” says Pannell’s uncle, Jim Metzger, CEO of Whitmore, a leading insurance brokerage on Long Island, who was scoring goals as an All American lacrosse player at Hofstra University from 1979 to 1980 prior to his days of scoring major insurance deals. “They certainly seem hungrier in athletics and the future.”

Long Island-based trainers suggest diversifying their skillset for the best results.

“Kids should be playing multiple sports up until the age of 16 at the minimum,” says trainer Marc Bucellato, who heads the soon-to-be franchised On The Marc Training out of Great Neck.

Using the examples of baseball and hockey, he says that the two sports compliment hand eye coordination that an athlete wouldn’t learn by playing one sport exclusively.

“When we have kids do the ladder drill we can immediately tell if they played multiple sports or if they specialized in one,” Bucellato says.

John Dunlop, who runs Woke Athletic and Fitness Training in Syosset is a firm believer that kids who are pushed into specializing in a single sport are more prone to injury.

“I think this is why injuries like ACL tears are more common in young athletes,” Dunlop says adding that being a versatile, multi sport athlete enhances lateral and gross motor skills, which help prevent that kind of season ending injury.

What will likely come as a breath of fresh air to parents of young athletes, the focus should remain on fun and enjoyment according to Bucellato and Dunlop.

“When you’re not having fun you burnout, plain and simple,” Dunlop says giving the advice that parents shouldn’t overcomplicate a child’s athletic career and development. “It doesn’t matter if your kid is slow at age 11, that won’t be the case at age 16,” he says.

Parents have even asked Bucellato what kind of protein powders are best suited for their child, to which he responds ‘just have them eat a lot and drink chocolate milk.’

Those primed for a longtime athletic career, the coaches and teams will find at the right age. Until then, they should just have fun and work hard, the trainers advise.

And for those that don’t go pro, there are still valuable lessons that can set a young athlete up for success later in life.

“Everything I learned in business I learned on the sports field,” says Metzger, whose two seasons with the then-Flying Dutchmen off Hempstead Turnpike taught him the reward that comes from “discipline, dedication, and desire” on the field firsthand.

“The way I relied on my teammates then is the way I rely on my colleagues in business now,” Metzger says, mentioning that human capital is his business’ greatest asset.

Another life lesson from sports that Metzger preaches is the value in failure. Using the analogy that even baseball’s best hitters walked back to the dugout empty handed, Metzger says he’s learned more from losing than he has from victories.

“There’s seeds of opportunity in failure and it’s at those time when you truly know who you are,” he says.

Backing up that sentiment of character through sport, Metzger spent June 6 back at his old school, Half Hollow Hills High School, prior handing out outstanding player awards for lacrosse.

“The team didn’t have the greatest season, which is why I especially wanted to talk to the players and parents to explain that the record doesn’t matter in a few years, but the values these athletes are learning will,” the All American businessman says.

It’s for those reasons and many others that when Metzger sees a potential new hire mention team sports on a resume it jumps off the page.

19 Big-Name Sports Pros From Long Island


Sue Bird

Four Olympic gold medals, three WNBA titles, and two NCAA championships at UConn…not to mention this Syosset native is an 11 time all-star that’s been the thunder and lightning of the Seattle Storm since 2002.


Jim Brown at the Cleveland Browns New Uniform Unveiling. Photo by Erik Drost

The last time the Cleveland Browns won it all they had Jim Brown to thank in 1964. The three time MVP and Manhasset raised fullback is considered one of the greatest NFLers of all time with his nine year, exclusively orange and brown career.


Wayne Chrebet, former wide receiver for the New York Jets, right, was in attendance at the Super Community Blood Drive on Jan. 14, 2014 at the Super Community Blood Drive in the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, N.J. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Armando Vasquez, NJDMAVA/PA)

Technically a Jersey boy, Chrebet earned his Long Island stripes as a wide out for Hofstra University’s football program (yes that existed) from 1991-94. After going undrafted in 1995, Chrebet walked on to the New York Jets during the team’s training camp at Hofstra. He put up 10 standout years with gang green before being inducted into the Jets’ ring of honor after his 2005 retirement.


President George W. Bush speaks with Bob Costas of NBC Sports during an interview Monday, Aug. 11, 2008, while attending the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. White House photo by Eric Draper

It seems as if every captivating sporting event in the past 40 years has been narrated by this Suffolk County hall of fame broadcaster. This Commack native’s own trophy case includes National Sportscaster of the Year in addition to more than 20 Emmy Awards. Achieving his own triple crown, Costas is also the only broadcaster in history win an Emmy for sports, news, and entertainment.


Julius Erving

After crossing over from East Meadow to both Roosevelt in Hempstead in adolescence, the four times MVP small forward would later return to the turnpike when he had a stint with the New York Nets at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum from 1973-76. Erving won it all in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team he would retire with four years and over 30,000 points later. Dr. J was known for his raucous slam-dunks and inducted into the hall of fame in 1993.


The NFL Today’s Boomer Esiason during the Super Bowl XLI pre-game show in Miami, Fla. in 2007. (Photo by Staff Sgt Kristi Machado, USAF)

Long before he commanded the morning airwaves on WFAN, Norman Julius Esiason was quarterbacking the New York Jets as well as the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals from 1984-97. Although the East Islip native never won a Super Bowl, he was a four time pro-bowler and won the AFC with Cincy in 1988.


Mike Francesa at Radio Row (Photo by Thomson200)

If you couldn’t tell by the way he takes ‘cawlers’ on his afternoon show, Francesca is about as Long Island as it gets. After Mike found his years upon years of success on WFAN he remained in Nassau County, relocating to Manhasset. Known best for being a know it all, Mike is arguably the most known voice in sports radio worldwide.


Alan Hahn. Photo by Nahearon

This St. Anthony’s High School grad and Smithtown native has been the studio face of the New York Knicks on MSG Network for years. Additionally, Hahn had gone back and forth with ex-Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro during their ESPN radio show, ‘Hahn and Humpty’ for some years as well.


Harris in October 2017. (Photo by Keith Allison)

Born in Islip and later moving to Dix Hills, Harris split his high school career between Half Hollow Hills High School West and Long Island Lutheran School in Brookville. The 2010 high school All-American forward would get drafted by the then Charlotte Bobcats in 2011 before bouncing around the NBA and landing with the Philadelphia 76ers this season.


UMass Lowell head softball coach and former U.S. Olympic softball player Danielle Henderson during a game at San Jose State University on March 15, 2019. (Photo by Arbor to SJ)

After advancing from Huntington to Commack, Henderson graduated from Commack high school in 1995 before pitching at UMass Amherst the following year. She would go on to toss two no hitters during her four seasons with the Minutemen, boasting a 0.96 ERA her freshman year. Henderson then donned the Stars and Stripes during the 2000 Olympic Summer games in Sydney where she pitched a shutout against Cuba on the way to gold.


Presidient George W. Bush talks with Sarah Hughes, olympic gold medalist and figure skater (center, left), her mother, Amy Hughes (far left), and her coach Robin Wagner in the Oval Office Friday, April 12, 2002. White House photo by Eric Draper

Hughes took home the gold in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games before finishing even her term at Great Neck North High School in 2003 when she would then call Yale University her new academic home. Following the gold, Hughes began giving free figure skating lessons to inner city children in Harlem and has been an outspoken advocate from breast cancer awareness.


Steve Janaszak

Do you believe the backup goalie is just as important as any other teammate? Yes! The native Minnesotan decided to call Babylon home after playing a role in the greatest sporting event in the 20th Century when the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union and winning gold at Lake Placid. After a four-year career in the NHL, nowadays Janny spends more time saving money than he does pucks as an investment manager.


Steven Matz on July 7, 2018. (Photo by D. Benjamin Miller)

The New York Mets southpaw ace spent his high school career pitching and holding down first base for Ward Melville High School where he would go toe to toe with fellow current major leaguer for the Toronto Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman of Patchogue-Medford High School. Matz was drafted by the Mets in 2009 and got his call to the majors in 2015 where’s he has been since.


Charlie McAvoy before game 6 of 2017 Bruins Senators playoff series in 2017. (Photo by Puffycoombes)

Drafted by Beantown in 2016, this Long Beach native earned his stripes in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs when he heroically and selflessly blocked a potentially game tying shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.


Adolfo Consolini and Al Oerter, 1960 Olympics. (Photo by Angelo Cozzi)

Born in 1936 and standing at a towering 6’4’’, this New Hyde Park native is one of few to claim four Olympic gold medals in the history of the games. He was active in Olympic discus from 1956-1968, where he won gold once every four years for the red white and blue. Oerter also carried the Olympic torch in 1996 before passing in 2007 at age 71.


Rob Scuderi holding the Stanley Cup.

Scuderi started his career in black and gold while playing with the St. Anthony’s Friars, continuing to wear those colors with the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2012 the defenseman and Syosset native would trade that gold for grey when he joined the Los Angeles Kings, raising the cup for a second time personally but also a first time ever for the west coast franchise.


Chris Weidman at the weigh in for UFC 131. (Photo by Peter Gordon)

This fighter is the pride of Long Island as well as Hofstra University, where he had wrestled from 2006-07 after transferring from Nassau Community College. Weidman became an MMA sensation after his second round KO of 2-1 favored Anderson Silva in 2013 where he was crowned UFC Middleweight Champion. He currently runs an MMA gym just around the corner from his alma mater. Weidman is also an avid Islanders fan, making multiple appearances during the team’s 2019 playoff run at the Nassau Coliseum.


Jay Wright speaking at the Sports Leadership Seminar at the Pentagon, May 2014. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

You can thank this now national champion for Hofstra University’s last two appearances in the NCAA tournament in 2000-01. Before being snatched by the Villanova Wildcats the following year, Wright was leading Hofstra to victory in the America East Conference. When the two teams met for an out of conference game at the Nassau Coliseum in late 2017, Wright had nothing but love for the Pride of Long Island.


Yaz at the plate. (Photo by Steven Carter)

Carl grew up on the East End playing sandlot ball before playing more competitively at Bridgehampton High School. From there he would go onward to victory at the University of Notre Dame before being drafted to the Boston Red Sox organization in 1959. When he reached the big leagues in 1961, Yastrzemski was filling the large cleats of Ted Williams in front of the Green Monster. He silenced any doubters in 1967 by winning the American League’s Triple Crown and later joining the coveted 3000 hit club and retiring as an
18 time all-star in 1983. Yastrzemski was inducted into Cooperstown in 1989, having won just about everything but the World Series with Boston. The Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association named an MVP award after Yastrzemski, which Matz had won.

New LI-fe: Islanders Playoff Run Has Fans Hopeful for Future, Return to Long Island

Islanders forward Mat Barzal moves in on Carolina defenders (Photo by Adiana Rivera)

Blaring car horns set off to the cadence of “Let’s go, Islanders!” made a long-awaited return to Hempstead Turnpike and Charles Lindbergh Boulevard this April. On Long Island, it’s playoff time once again.

After a season that was preceded with despair over the departure of New York Islanders’ longtime Captain John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team once again defied hockey “experts” dismal expectations. They did so by stringing together a 103-point season, securing the Metropolitan Division’s second playoff spot and home ice for rounds one and two in the process — although “home ice” is a slippery term right now for the Isles.

“I feel as if the fan base is rejuvenated with this return home to the Coliseum and playoff run,” says Farmingdale resident and Islanders diehard fan Brian Tinney.

Of course, the Islanders only played the opening round of the playoffs at NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, their original home where they won four straight Stanley Cups. When efforts to rebuild the aging arena stalled, the team skated to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015, where they played round two of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the team’s ownership is in the process of building a new arena that is expected to open in 2021 at Belmont Park in Elmont.

As for the Islanders’ stunning regular season, the National Hockey League saw a resurgence of goaltender Robin Lehner, the fanciest of stick work and scoring from All-Star forward Mat Barzal, and similar offensive magic from forward Jordan Eberle along with other teammates like captain and former Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Anders Lee. In short, this has been the Islanders’ most successful season since 1993.

Islanders Captain Anders Lee carries the puck across the blue line during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 26, 2019. (Photo by Joe Nuzzo)

So naturally, diehard fans young and old brought the twice-sold-out coliseum to a fever pitch, waving bright orange rally towels while chanting “YES YES YES!” when the Islanders routed the Pittsburgh Penguins in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ opening round, continuing on to sweep the perennial bane of the Metropolitan Division.

The quick series was bolstered by physical play and New York promptly answering goals and refusing to be pushed around by the big bad Penguins, a notoriously punishing squad led by captain Sydney Crosby.

All of that was summarized by right wing Josh Bailey’s game-winning overtime goal in Game 1 and forward Anthony Beauvillier’s and Eberle’s relentless attacking and scoring in Game 2. Right winger Leo Kamarov’s physically aggressive play was demonstrated, especially towards fellow Russian and Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin throughout the series, along with a visible resilience from center Brock Nelson and just about the entire squad.

When the Islanders put down the flightless birds for good in a 3-1 series clinching Game 4 victory,  just about all of Long Island let out an even longer and more joyous yell for what truly was the unpredictable performance of a lifetime from the Islanders.

It was more than a feeling of sweet victory for the Isles and the team’s ever so faithful: It was a long-awaited postseason reunion with a venue that, for many, felt like home.

Islander goaltender Robin Lehner (40) makes a save during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 26, 2019. Photo by Joe Nuzzo.

Since the Islanders split games between the coliseum and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center while anticipating a new, more permanent home at Belmont Park, this was the first round of playoffs in Nassau County since 2015. That was when the Islanders fell to Barry Trotz’s Washington Capitals in seven games.

Prior to that heartbreak, the last time the Islanders had won a series while playing at the Coliseum was in 1993. Again, the team had faced off against the locally less-than-applauded Pittsburgh Penguins.  

Now with Trotz and his strategy on the Isles bench for the first year, the team not only reclaimed the Coliseum’s “Fort Neverlose” namesake this season, but also had a postseason sweep over an opponent for the first time since the Islanders won a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup in 1983.

Tinney, the Farmingdale fan, has spent many a night at the Coliseum since he was little, seeing one of the Islanders’ most exciting postseason moments firsthand.

Fans celebrate and Islanders goal against the Hurricanes in game 2. Photo by Adiana Rivera.

“I’ll never forget sitting [in the] last row at the Coliseum when Shawn Bates scored on the penalty shot in Game 4 of the 2001-2002 playoffs against Toronto,” he recalls.

While the Isles fell to the Leafs in seven games that series, the moment Tinney described would still put a smile on any Islanders fan to date.

“I’ve never heard a building so loud in my entire life; It was a complete out-of-body experience,” Tinney continues.

Shawn Bates’ penalty shot was replayed while the score was tied 1-1 in the third period of Game 2 against Pittsburgh. It was just seconds after that and a clip of Herb Brooks’ famous ‘Miracle’ speech when Eberle netted what would be the game winner against Penguins goalie Matt Murray. Bates was watching, cheering from the stands.

Also watching from the stands was a fan new to hockey this season, Andrew Adrian of Jericho. He exhausted an American Express card to see Games 1 and 2 from rinkside, the first playoffs Adrian had ever attended.

The Nassau Coliseum before game 2. Photo by Alex Mitchell

“The ground was literally shaking for an hour there. I don’t think the cheering and yelling ever stopped,” he says. “I’ve been to plenty of sporting events but nothing compares to this at all.”

During one of the intermissions, Islanders owner Jon Ledecky went into the stands, spoke with fans and even took a photo with Adrian while commending him on having a linebacker’s stature. Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling also walked through the concourse that night, just like any old fan.

“That’s what makes the Islanders a different kind of team,” Adrian says. “This wouldn’t happen at Madison Square Garden or anywhere else for that matter.”

Even out-of-state fans geared up for the Islanders’ strong postseason this spring.

Jack Thury grew up on orange and blue in Northport and currently attends Boston’s Emmanuel College. He and other Beantown-based Isles fans took over the Cask’n Flagon pub adjacent to Fenway Park to watch the team clinch against Pittsburgh.

Fans rallying for the Islanders during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 26, 2019. Photo by Joe Nuzzo

In addition to the Islanders, Thury is also pulling for the Boston Bruins (the team that eliminated  Tavares’ Leafs) to reach the Eastern Conference final so that he could see one or more Islanders playoff games during his own finals season.

For the Isles to reach that round, the team would first have to do away with a pesky Carolina Hurricanes team which has bested the Islanders 2-0 at Barclays Center so far. With the series in Raleigh, North Carolina for Games 3 and 4, one fan from Massapequa thinks the Isles will weather the storm as road warriors.

“I think they will make this a six- or seven-game series easily,” says Brett Ansbacher, noting the Islanders haven’t lost three games in a row yet this season.

He and his father, Jonathan Ansbacher, have been Islanders season ticket holders for years, following the teams through ups and downs.

“I trust Barry Trotz and like many have noted, he came back in Round 1 last year down 2-0 in the series en route to leading the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup,” Ansbacher says, mentioning fears of an unpredictable Hurricanes team.

Islanders mascot Sparky the Dragon gettiing the crowd excited during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 26, 2019. Photo by Joe Nuzzo

The Islanders dropped the first two games by only a goal, losing Game 1 in overtime 1-0 where Lehner’s impressive 31-save night earned him the second star of the game. Meanwhile, a two-goal burst by Carolina at the start of the third period was the difference maker in Game 2.

Trotz says that the Hurricanes “had 48 seconds of pretty good hockey” following the Game 2 loss, mentioning his sentiment that the Islanders are far from done in this series and can easily reverse the deficit on the Canes.

“There’s some frustration for a few minutes and I think confidence grows out of that,” Trotz says.

“We’ve been resilient all year, we’ve been good on the road,” the cup-contending coach said while mentioning how “outstanding” Islanders fans have been this season and playoff run.

The Islanders play Game 4 against Carolina on Friday, May 3. After that, the Isles and Canes would return to Brooklyn for Game 5 on Sunday, May 5 then bounce back to Raleigh for Game 6 on Tuesday, May 7 with a quick return to Barclays Center for Game 7 on Wednesday, May 8, if necessary.

“No matter what though, this season is a huge success in my book and has me extremely excited for a future on Long Island,” Ansbacher says.