By Dyan LeBourdais
Before he was recalled by the Islanders on Feb. 11, 2011, Islanders forward Micheal Haley
had put up 22 points in 50 games with the Islanders American Hockey
League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Standing out as one of
the team’s top performers and leaders, the tough guy showed he had more
skill than he’d been given credit for in the past.
Undrafted, Haley played six seasons in the Ontario Hockey League before working through the ranks of the East Coast Hockey League and the AHL. In the two seasons prior to the 2010-11 season, Haley combined for 22 points in 110 games, which he matched in just 50 games with the Sound Tigers last year.
Haley made his NHL debut at the end of the 2009-10 season, but only saw time in two games before the season came to a close. When he was called up for the Islanders and Penguins rematch, Haley didn’t want to let the opportunity escape him.
“It was amazing,” Haley said of his NHL experience. “You’re just excited to be here and in awe, but this year was more that. I wanted to show that I belonged here. Having a first game like that (Feb. 11 Penguins game) helps drastically. I couldn’t have asked for things like that to go a better way.”
Haley scored his first NHL goal that game, but he was also a strong physical presence, coming to the defense of many of his teammates. Haley’s actions won over the packed house quickly and they showed their appreciation by chanting his name, truly giving him a warm welcome to the island.
“You run on the energy they give you, especially for someone who plays like I do, because that’s pretty much all you have,” Haley said of the chanting. “I could still hear them inside the locker room when I was ejected. It gave me goose bumps.”
The immediate fandom helped Haley get up for every game, along with a strong support system and great friends. Haley made his way up to the big club through the minors with Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin.
“Me and Gills (Gillies) got to do pretty much the same things down in the minors and I know what he’s about and what I’m about,” Haley said. “We get along great. As for Marty (Martin), he played in Sarnia (of the OHL) and I left the year before he got there, so we kind of took the same road. He’s one of my best friends, and even in Bridgeport we just knew what the other would do. You might be able to get away from one of us, but you can’t get away from two.”
They could definitely be an intimidating force on the ice. Haley put up 85 penalty minutes in the 27 games he dressed for, tallying two goals and one assist.
Finishing the season on Long Island meant the world to Haley.
“It just makes me hungrier,” Haley said. “Playing in the minors and the way that I do, it’s just in me. I love the game of hockey. I play the way I play because it’s how I was brought up. Now I’ve had a taste (of the NHL) and I don’t want to let it go. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure I don’t.”
Preparing for training camp, Haley plans to eat right and spend a lot of time in the gym and on the ice.
“I need to obviously improve my skating because you can always get faster,” Haley said. “I’ve kind of been good in situations, but I think I can make more of my own situations and don’t always have to wait for the right opportunity. Earlier this year, I started doing stuff on my own, trying to create for myself. As I get more comfortable and establish myself, I think I can do that here.”
Making an appearance at the Islanders Draft Party on Friday night was new for Haley, but something he definitely appreciated.
“I was actually excited to come down here and start thinking about hockey and training,” Haley said. “It’s the first year I’ve really felt this excitement, not only on a personal level to have a whole year here, but to be a part of this team. The young talent here has proved how good we can be and were just going to get better.”
Take it from one of the most exciting players on the team.
“It’s an exciting time here on Long Island.”