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Bentivenga: The Rise of the Pelech Posse

In the early portion of his NHL career, Islanders’ defenseman Adam Pelech had some growing pains while attempting to solidify his place in the lineup. From seemingly careless turnovers to tipping pucks into his own net, it seemed as if Pelech couldn’t get anything going for himself.

Then along came Barry Trotz and his elite defensive system.

Since the arrival of Trotz, Pelech has blossomed into a stellar top-pairing defenseman. The 2012 third-round draft pick went from a liability to a defensive star, seeing a much deserved significant increase in ice time under the watchful eye of their reputable new leader. Pelech began making better decisions with the puck and he was rarely caught out of position to break up a play. While Pelech still flies under the radar of most Isles fans and hockey fans in general, number three caught the eye of one fan in particular.

20-year-old Jake Basile has been following the Islanders since he was seven years old and right from the start, he knew he’d be rooting for the blue and orange. “Growing up in a hockey family, we were always at my brother’s games and it was always on the TV,” he said. “ The team we rooted for was the Islanders and there was never any doubt they’d be my team too.”

The Plainview, NY native has been going to Islander games for several years now. However, it wasn’t until he attended one particular game in March of 2019 that his life as a fan changed forever.

“The “Pelech Posse” was born during the clinching game against Buffalo last season,” Basile said. “Pelech was remarkable and my friends and I had just been going crazy for every play he made all game. Some lady just called us the ‘Pelech Posse’ and I decided to run with it. Ever since then, that’s been our movement.”

Following that transformative game, Basile created a social media alter ego, known as “BathtubJake”, an Instagram page that posts NHL content and is centered around the posse. “My page, BathTubJake, came a bit before the posse really formed,” he added. “The page was always meant to raise attention for Pelech from the start though.”

Fans who follow Basile’s Instagram page seem to share his feeling, as the page itself includes a link to the Pelech Posse store, where fans can purchase merchandise and, of course, become a member of the growing brand.

“All they really have to do is support Pelech,” said Basile.”I’m sure a lot of Islanders fans love Pelech but aren’t aware of the group. So that’s all that’s required is support for our shutdown d-man and knowledge that the Posse exists.”

The store also offers a variety of Pelech-themed t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, masks, and more. Undeniably though, one of the most unique pieces available on the page isn’t one you can wear.

“The first cardboard head cutout I got was Komarov,” Basile said. “I just thought it was really funny and bizarre and most importantly an attention grabber. We got tons of questions (regarding the heads) that night and got put on the MSG intermission report, scoreboard and the Islanders’ Instagram.”

Basile also credits that night as the night the Pelech Posse really took off. The Posse is expanding quickly amongst Isles fans and has even gotten noticed by Pelech himself. Basile has met the Isles’ blueliner twice, once before Game Two against Pittsburgh (when he got Pelech to sign his cardboard head), and the second time in October 2019 when he signed his jersey. “He knew who I was the second time but I really want to see him again now that the Posse has really taken off. I’d love to ask him what he thinks of the Posse and if it’s had a positive impact on his life,” Basile said. 

The purpose of the group is to relay how much the fan base appreciates Pelech as a player, and how important of a role he holds on the team. That message was well-received when Basile, along with 149 other Posse members, signed a Get Well card for the man they call “Pelly”, after he went down with an Achilles injury in January 2020.

The future for both Pelech and his cult of followers is looking extremely bright. Win or lose, the Pelech Posse will bring massive amounts of support for Pelech and the Islanders for years to come. As Pelech grows as a player, his posse will grow with him, remaining by his side every step of the way.

 

 

 

 

Follow Carter on Twitter at @cbentivenga14

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