POINT BLANK: God Bless Biloxi
Katrina impacts members of the Islanders' extended family
By Chris Botta
It was Thursday, Aug. 25 when Steve Stirling arrived in Biloxi, Miss.
to take part in a press conference announcing a partnership between
the Islanders, Sound Tigers and the ECHL Mississippi Sea Wolves.
"A great day," Stirling recalled today. "The people in Mississippi
were so excited about their first affiliation with an NHL team. It
got a lot of press attention locally. The Sea Wolves' staff people
and fans were so warm, so welcoming to me. I flew home the next
morning thinking that it was such a privilege to spend a day there
and see a part of America I had never been to before."
48 hours later, Katrina arrived and changed everything - forever.
Biloxi has been ravaged by the hurricane. Thousands of homes have
been destroyed. The Sea Wolves' home rink, described by Stirling
as "no more than a sand-wedge from the beach," has more than eight
feet of water where the ice usually is. The Beau Rivage, the
beautiful casino-hotel where Stirling stayed in Biloxi
probably seen the pictures on CNN.
After several tries, I finally made contact Saturday morning with my
colleague, Mike Kelly, the broadcasting and media relations director
of the Sea Wolves. Mike and his family retreated to a safe haven in
Florida before Katrina hit. "We're very fortunate to be alive and
have a safe place to stay," Mike wrote in an email. "Biloxi and the
surrounding region have no power, no running water and no phone
As a result, the status of the Sea Wolves franchise is not only
unknown, it's simply not a priority right now. Knowing their family
members, friends and co-workers are safe is the only thing Mike Kelly
and his colleagues care about.
Many of the homes of the Sea Wolves staffers suffered horrendous
damage. In his email, Mike reported to me that they have been unable
to confirm the safety and whereabouts of five members of the Sea
Wolves family: one co-owner, one equipment staffer and three members
of the sales and marketing team.
What do you say after hearing that?
I have no idea. All I know is that attention must be paid. The
Islanders family and that includes our most important members, the
fans will do something in the name of our new friends in Biloxi.
For now, please consider going here to make donations to the American
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of the Red Cross is located in
Biloxi. Patricia Kraemer (pkraemer@...
) is the Disaster
and Emergency Services Director. Please contact her if you can help
the people of Mississippi.
When the press conference on Aug. 25 was over, Coach Stirling took a
drive in his rental car up and down the coast. It was a rare
opportunity to see a wonderful part of our country, he thought.
"I watch CNN and MSNBC and Fox and it's just so sad to see those
clips of the Beau Rivage and the floating casinos and the buildings
around the arena and, of course, the homes," said Stirling. "It's
unfathomable to me that Biloxi and New Orleans and the other areas
hit may never be the same."
It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. With a little help from a
lot of people, the South will rise again.