A look at the NHL Network "Voices" episode featuring Howie Rose, which first aired Feb. 12, 2009.
I'll admit it: When the NHL Network is making the rounds to feature a play-by-play man from all 30 team for its "Voices" series, it feels like a slap in the face when the Islanders' episode spends a lengthy segment discussing their play-by-play announcer's Rangers fandom and his famous call of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup championship.
But when "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" is the most memorable moment of Howie Rose's career, what can you do? I'm of the belief that appreciation for the sport itself runs just a shade deeper than even one's favorite team. And Islanders TV play-by-play man Howie Rose's history with the Rangers helps explain how this sport hooked him; it's part of his story. It's not his fault that there haven't been many big moments since he moved back to the Islanders side of the rivalry.
Plus, being forced to see a bit of quickly aging 1994 Cup footage reminds me that, with the passage of time, the Rangers' last single Cup win fades ever closer to the same "back then" territory where the Islanders' Cup dynasty resides.
Other elements from this episode, which of course featured the famous Dubielewicz shootout save against the Devils that sent the Islanders into the 2007 playoffs after four consecutive wins (and after The Hockey News left them out of the playoff preview):
"I coudn't describe my style at this point. I think it varies from game to game, based on something as simple as mood. I might be in a very goofy mood one game, and serious one the next. To me that's kind of good. It creates a little mystery of, 'Well, who's showing up tonight?'"
Agreed on that point: You never quite know which Howie is showing up on game night.
They talked to Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti, and of course Billy Jaffe (the setting for the game was the recent Islanders-Rangers game at the Coliseum). And Stan Fischler, talking about the difficulty of crossing from Rangers to Islanders, and assessing the aforementioned Matteau call, which he compared to the Bobby Thompson call from 1951:
"It captured precisely what Rangers fans were feeling at that moment."
And Rose, on coming out of Queens College and covering Islanders expansion games -- they played some great old tapes of his student work -- and feeling the vibe during the Dynasty:
"When the Islanders were winning the Stanley Cup, it meant everything. You could not go to any store on Long Island without seeing an Islanders calendar, bumper sticker, some sort of artifact that told you you were in Islanders Country. There was a tremendous amount of civic pride."
In the intro, it was weird to see footage of the current Islanders squad -- in the current RBK-ified colors -- given the "blurry/nostalgia" treatment. Too soon. Incongruent. Not right.
But it was cool to see press box footage of Rose really getting into games. His visible frustration at Henrik Lundqvist holding off the late Islanders rally was something you can identify with -- something you like to see from the home announcing crew.
And then one more perspective: Rose, on the special place the Islanders have, despite the bumps of the last 15 years:
"I think the Islanders are probably the closest thing in this area that we've ever had or ever will have in to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Because the players all live in the relatively the same area."
It's a segment the NHL Network played over and over in the promos leading up to this episode's debut. But it struck me as a nice antidote to the Kansas City speculation. You take what you can get.