They're moving too. - Mike Stobe
The men who built the Islanders dynasty took the news of the team's move to Brooklyn hard. They should. Because they just got jobbed by the officials.
Mike Bossy wondered if his retired number was moving to Brooklyn, too. After appearing at the Barclays Center press conference, he took in the Nets-Knicks pre-season game at Nassau Coliseum.
Meanwhile someone, somewhere was probably cooking up a new rumor about Pat LaFontaine buying the team and moving them to the Walt Whitman Mall. Probably.
In the coming days, more opinions from the Islanders alumni will trickle in. Most will be upset that the arena they called home, that they gilded with banner after banner, will no longer house their old team. They'll wonder about what the loss will mean for the Island on which they settled, raised families and were heroes.
And they should be pissed. Because in the end, it wasn't Gretzky and the Oilers or Scott Scissions or Mike Milbury or Charles Wang that killed the Islanders dynasty. It was the lazy, shiftless, suit-wearing shysters that have darkened Nassau County political offices for years that simply left the door open and watched a glorious collective history run off into the street.
Forty years ago, Nassau County was given a gift. A professional sports team for suburbanites who chose to move their families out of the crowded boroughs and into Long Island's lawn-covered landscape. A unique and special place in post-War America had grown and advanced to the point where it was ready to compete economically with the urban center of New York. And in just eight years, Long Island was awarded again with a juggernaut for the ages that ran roughshod over all opponents.
No team has accomplished what the Islanders did. None. And, in all probability, none ever will again. This wasn't just a "good" team for a while. This was a historic, once-in-a-lifetime experience that will never, at any point in the future, exist on this planet. Think about that. There are good teams, championship teams, and perennial contenders.
But not 19-consecutive-playoff-series-victories dynasties.
And like the spoiled children they're often accused of spawning, the decision-makers of Nassau County took their fortune for granted. They treated a hall of fame team like a brand new Escalade they refused to drive because it wasn't the color they asked for.
The politicians talked and talked and will continue talking even after the Islanders drop the puck at Barclays in October 2015. The issues between the franchise and their own home arena are older than half the Islanders' current roster. Two and a half decades of hot air and cold wars have yielded nothing. Nassau County, the owner and operator of Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, had 25 years to fix a leaky roof and never managed to so much as get the ladder out of the garage.
Too Much Work
The Islanders aren't innocent in this. This is New York; where the weak are cast aside and shunned. There is no such thing as a lovable loser. There are too many other things to do and too many other ways to spend money. Years of losing lead to fan disappointment which lead to searing anger and then deafening apathy. Given a choice, newer fans often chose to root for The Other Guys.
At some point, too many people decided that having pride in their hometown team was just too much work.
Many former fans will say "to hell with the son of a bitch Wang. Don't let the door hit you on the way out." They'll want the team to stay exactly where it is and be exactly what it was and cost exactly as much as it used to.
Between the realities of modern sports and Long Island's current political circus, this is fantasy.
Progress Versus Stagnation
The Islanders moving to Brooklyn is, ostensibly, a sports story. But under its surface, it's a story about progress versus stagnation.
The Islanders have a home. Full stop. And whatever other problems the team has are shrinking one promising prospect at a time. The future of the franchise is coming.
This is progress.
The elected leadership of Nassau County sitting on their hands while letting a historic, communal and lucrative element of their identity walk away for nothing represents an embarrassing, shocking and monumentally stupid amount of stagnation. I'd blame current seat-warmers Ed Mangano and Kate Murray, but the fact is that the dust had collected on the Coliseum issue when they were still interns licking envelopes for their predecessors.
There will be a lot of hue and cry over lost revenues and jobs. You know who should have considered those cries years ago? The people in charge of fostering and growing revenues and jobs.
We will forever remember the talent and toughness of the Islanders dynasty. No one can erase them from the history books or from sports fans' consciousness (even if certain Queens-born NBAers aren't up on their NHL history). Tales will be told for all time of Gillies vs. O'Reilly, Tonelli-to-Nystrom, Bossy's levitation and "Samurai Billy."
But it exists in a bubble with a hazy, cathode ray glow. It lives in a time of Pac-Man and Betamax tapes and "One Day At A Time" and cars with simulated wood-grain paneling on the sides. What's truly devastating is that it didn't have to.
With a little effort and upkeep and the slightest amount of competency and pride, that team could have stayed golden. Maybe they wouldn't have been as good on the ice and maybe they wouldn't have won any more Stanley Cups. But that doesn't matter. It was never about the Islanders or hockey or a simple pastime.
Nassau County should have made the Coliseum a proud, living, evolving monument to almost inconceivable greatness and hope for a bright future. Instead, it chose to bury them there.
No parodies this time. Don't worry, we'll make more.