I've been a diehard Islander fan my entire life. I grew up 10 minutes away from the Coliseum in a family that ate, slept and breathed hockey, it was a natural fit.
During the 25th anniversary season the Isles released two great accounts of their history: Pride and Passion, a book covering the history of the team and a tape doing the same. I wore both of these out.
I slept with the book like other kids slept with stuffed animals and destroyed the binding, causing pages to fall out (luckily the Islanders store found more copies a couple of years back and I was able to pick one up in pristine condition). I also watched the tape weekly, and soon I was a walking encyclopedia of Islander history. I was so immersed in the Isles that when I went to a Bobby Nystrom autograph signing, I asked if he knew my favorite player Glenn Resch; I was 5 at the time.
I spent countless hours recreating the dynasty on my driveway and tracking players at autograph signings no matter where they were being held, I still have an autographed water bottle cap from a Zdeno Chara signing at the Sunrise Mall.
However, the most common theme of my Islander fandom was disappointment. I have no memories of the Islanders winning a playoff series despite the fact I'm in my 20's, and I've seen an inferior product placed out on the ice year after year. With few exceptions -- 2001, 2007, and last year come to mind -- the team hasn't even given much hope to us diehards, but we come back year after year.
Hell, my favorite memory of the Isles I was alive to see was when I went to a meaningless regular season game with my father on an unassuming Friday night to be treated to a fight-filled 9-3 thrashing of the hated Penguins. However, despite all this I still came back year after year with an optimist's heart hoping one day I'd get to see the Cup brought to Long Island and a glimmer of the glory the Islanders of yesteryear once brought to that beloved uniform.
However that is no longer a plausible dream even, as the team has one more year left in the Coliseum, which for my money is the best atmosphere in sports when its full and the fans are loud, and barring a miracle will not see another Stanley Cup there. The team's future lies in Brooklyn, where it will not be the same, no longer will it be the easiest commute in all of sports and no longer will they be Long Island's team. Despite what they say, I do believe the uniform will be changed once the new owner realizes there isn't an existing fanbase in Brooklyn and the arena sees poor turnouts.
The Isles of the 80's and even of my childhood will be a distant memory, something to tell my kids about how LI once had their own team until poor ownership and an inferior product drove it away and the greatest dynasty in professional sports will become a footnote to history.
The New York Islanders, our New York Islanders, Long Island's team will always hold a special place in my heart but I fear they will disappear in Brooklyn, along with my fandom. I hope this last season at the Coliseum will be one to remember and they can go out on a high note. So please, Garth, let's sign Halak. Let's go Habs/Kings/Hawks. The one positive of having no memory of Islander playoff sucess is also not having a memory of the Rangers winning the Cup. Please, hockey gods, keep it that way.