UNIONDALE, NY - JULY 13: Banners promoting the upcoming referendum for a new arena adorn the Nassau Coliseum during the New York Islanders prospects evaluation camp at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on July 13, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I found it funny towards the end of the season, when the Islanders were playing the Rangers and Butchie mentioned that without the Rangers, there wouldn't be the Islanders. If the Rangers had anything to do with it, the Islanders would have never come into existence. Hell, if the NHL back then had a choice, the Islanders would have never existed.
Nassau County, preferring not to have a team in the Coliseum from the upstart WHA, had only one recourse to keep the WHA out. That was to get an NHL team. William Shea, who helped get the Mets a decade earlier, was crucial to convincing the NHL -- who likewise wanted to keep the WHA out wherever they could block them -- to add a team to a once-new Coliseum, now in need of replacement 40 years later. To even the schedule and plant a stake in the South to counter the WHA's Miami franchise, the NHL also added the Atlanta Flames to the mix.
The Islanders managed all of 12 wins in their first season. In a way it makes it interesting that Shea was key to two teams in the area who would set records as worst ever in their first year, then rise to the top within their first decade of existence. But for the Islanders, that time on top was something historic.
Four straight Stanley Cup wins, five straight Finals appearances. It has not been repeated since in the NHL, NFL, MLB or NBA. Larry Bird's Celtics made four straight finals, Jordan's Bulls won three straight finals twice, Johnson's Lakers made four straight finals, Jeter's Yanks made four straight finals, Gretzky's Oilers only made three straight finals and only Jim Kelly's Bills made four straight Super Bowls.
We all know it, but the level of talent and history involved with the Islanders Dynasty is simply amazing. There are of course plenty of greats who are recognized by the team and the Hockey Hall of Fame, but there are so many instances when someone who seems lost to history made the big plays. That's the great thing about the Islanders. That's the biggest thing Long Island has to lose if the vote is No on August 1st. These moments and this legacy would be lost if the team moves on.
Let's not kid ourselves. I've heard every excuse in the world, from the cable deal to the oft-heard suggestion that the NHL will not let any Cup winners move. But if this doesn't work -- if the Islanders are sold -- they are going to move. The Atlanta Thrashers and Atlanta Hawks had one of the sweetest arena naming deals around, with one caveat: both teams needed to stay in the Arena. If you think Bettman is about to step in and save the day for a County that won't help itself, just take a look at Atlanta.
If you go back and read old news stories, you can find some mentioning that a new Islanders arena was 2 to 3 years away back in 1999. Then, and now, the arena is falling apart. But even if it weren't, you can't make space which doesn't exist: To compete today you need high price luxury suites which are commonly sold to corporations. Nassau Coliseum can't add anymore, and even those luxury suites which do exist pale in comparison to the Devils and Rangers suites.
Aug. 1: It's bigger than any of us. It's all of us.
The vote on August 1st is so much bigger than an arena. It's bigger than Long Island, Nassau and the Town Hempstead. It's bigger than a projected loss of $104 million for the County if they leave. It's a history and a team that have brought together people from all across the world now. From the people who frequent LHH, Islandermania, Botta's Point Blank, and countless other sites, we really are all Islanders. It's sitting on a couch, watching the game with a beer in your hand and a laptop set to the open thread. It's the timeless tradition of getting together with friends and family at the bar to watch the game. It's showing up at the Coliseum to see them in blue, it's the many fans around the continent showing up on the road to see them in white -- and it's the many fans around the world who follow every move online.
That's another thing that would be gone: The tradition. Sharing those great moments with the next generation. Telling them about Tonelli to Nystrom. Or how Tonelli just wouldn't let the dream of a Dynasty die in 1982. The night that Kelly Hrudey faced 75 shots. Ferraro to Volek. Shawn Bates' penalty shot. Wade Dubielewicz's stick poke. Being there when John Tavares scored his first goal. When the Islanders said enough was enough to the Penguins. (Again.)
Even beyond that, I'm sure we all have moments we hold dear. The more obscure moments we try to bring up whenever talking about the Islanders. We hold dear the good times, we laugh and cry about the bad and we relish being fans. If the team were to move, those moments would become like ghosts. I don't think anyone here or in any other community that follows the Islanders actually wants to see them gone. But for a lot of us who don't live in Nassau, it's out of our hands.
To so many of us, this is more than dollars and cents. The vote isn't about the economy, or the sustainability of the arena, or even the development of the Hub, but the life and death of a dear family member. This is the end of the road. The Islanders have finally gotten all the ducks in a row among the politicians. Now all they need is people to vote yes and the team is saved. If someone votes no, they aren't saying they prefer the team playing at the current coliseum with some renovations. If they vote no it's not a knock on Charles Wang. Voting no is assuring that the team will be leaving soon. People always seem unwilling to realize this unless the Uhauls are at the door and the team is ready to move.
We Are Bastard Children. And Proud.
Speaking of Wang, as I've said before if someone was willing to buy the team and dedicated to keeping it on Long Island, he would have sold it long ago. But this vote is bigger than Wang. Whatever issues people may or may not have with Wang, they can't let that sway their vote. If the vote passes and the Islanders are on Long Island for the next 30 years, he'll simply be one chapter in the long, storied history of the team, rather than the final chapter as the guy who lost money for a decade trying to keep the team where it belongs.
Just as the Islanders have always been the bastard children of the NHL, doing things their way despite "popular opinion," we are the bastard fans. We fight every inch of the way for our Islanders. It's tough to find a negative comment anywhere online about the Isles that doesn't have a reply from a well read Isles fan telling them exactly what they have wrong. We rally against the NHL ignoring our history by making our own videos. We come out in the thousands for hockey in July amongst a bunch of prospects.
I don't think anyone would campaign to tear down the Montauk Lighthouse because there is a limited need for a lighthouse in today's day and age. People understand it has a rich history, including ties to George Washington who authorized its construction.
In only 40 years the Islanders have put together a richer history than some Original Six teams. While the team has had it's share of stars and great players, it has plenty of players who worked hard, loved Long Island and helped make them a great team. In the end, that's what makes a team a team, those guys who you never heard of or remember doing the small things they can in big moments. It's why in the future you can show a tape of a Tonelli, a Henning or a MacDonald and say with hard work kid, that can be you.
But that's only if the arena vote passes.