Let’s cut to the chase here. The New York Islanders are in huge trouble. No surprise really, considering they’ve struggled on the ice, have the lowest average attendance in the NHL, and play in an outdated building. To top it off the people of Nassau County voted against a proposition to fund a new arena with their hard-earned money. Which means the Islanders could be out of Long Island by 2015 if owner Charles Wang can’t come up with a new idea to keep the team on the Island.
If the team leaves Long Island, it would be a sad day in the NHL. I actually remember when the Islanders were one of the strongest, most well-run franchises in the league. The Islanders are an important part of the history of the NHL. The dynasty years of the early 1980s in which they won 4 consecutive Stanley Cups are one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport.
I’ll never forget the day the Islanders won their first Stanley Cup. May 24 1980. A packed and boisterous Nassau County Coliseum on a sweaty Saturday afternoon. The game was televised nationally on CBS in the United States. Bob Nystrom’s overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers set off a wild celebration and one of the most memorable moments in NHL history.
They continued that run for the next 3 seasons. Many great players donned the blue and orange jerseys. Their was goaltender Billy Smith. No one dared entered his crease without getting a whack from his goal stick. Yet he was the best big game goalie in the NHL until Patrick Roy arrived on the scene.
Their was Mike Bossy. One of the greatest snipers of all time. His snap shot was so deadly and so accurate, opposing goalies were intimidated by his presence in the slot.
Their was Denis Potvin. The captain and star defenceman. One of the hardest hitters of his era. He could throw a devastating bodycheck, or rush down the ice and score a big goal. A brilliant player.
Their was Bryan Trottier. The best two-way centre of the 1980s. He could kill penalties, be a set up man on the power play, win you a big face-off, or score a big goal. Trottier could do it all.
Their was Clark Gillies. The man who virtually invented the power forward position. One of the game’s best fighters who could score goals and play a smart physical game.
Their was Butch Goring. The classic shut down centre. A relentless checker who could chip in offensively as well.
Their were the Sutter brothers. Duane and Brent. Living up to the vintage Sutter name with their grit and determination.
Their was Bob Nystrom. A tough winger who had a knack for scoring huge goals.
Their was Bob Bourne. A speedy winger who was plenty tough.
And of course their was coach Al Arbour. The brains behind it all.
This was a legendary team with legendary characters. And it could all be gone by 2015. And the sport will be worse off. I hope Mr Wang can find a way to keep the team in Long Island. The fans deserve it. The league deserves it. History demands it. A young team on the rise, wanting to make new memories. Future stars like John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Matt Moulson are willing to etch their names with the past legends.
But unless something drastic happens, all that will remain are memories. A sad time indeed.