Before this year, I had spent the past 23 years in hockey abyss. Let me clarify.

I moved to the Philadelphia area in 1995 when I was 9 years old. My father got a new job at the time. Long Island was all I knew, and more than that, so were the Islanders. Let me clarify again.

My father, Rich Kahn, had been the PA voice of the Coliseum since 1983 and had worked full time at SportsChannel at the same time. So, between the two gigs, I constantly had access to the best and most exclusive opportunities the Islanders had to offer, including the SportsChannel luxury suite for any game during the season.

But, just like that, it was gone. It was a tough pill to swallow at 9. I didn’t understand why we had to move. Eventually, it made sense.

That brings me to 2018. After keeping a text chat going for at least five years or so with various NY friends I had kept in touch with, one of those friends, Isles Meetup Charlotte Founder Mikey Ryan, convinced me to start a chapter in Philly. Part of me didn’t think it could work. How many displaced Islanders fan like me were really living here?

But then I thought back on how dim watching hockey alone the previous two decades had been. It’s truly difficult to get excited about a sports team alone in a house in a different city. I didn’t know how jealous I was of the Isles fans who stayed on the Island and cultivated friendships and bonds through this team. That camaraderie is special. I constantly thought to myself who I would watch a deciding Stanley Cup Finals game with and where if it ever came to that. The answers made me feel sad.

It was an easy decision to say yes to this opportunity, and thus far it has been nothing but spectacular. I’ve made some new friends, and gotten closer with old ones because of Isles Meetups. I’ve spent time in the owners suite, had conversations with John Ledecky, Stan Fischler and Brendan Burke, but most importantly, created something for people like me. People whom for so long thought they had to endure this often painful franchise by themselves.

That’s more valuable to me than anything else.