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From Lighthouse to Tavares, a pivotal 30 days for the Islanders

A nice omen: At least the New York Islanders are actually having a prospect mini-camp. The Dallas Stars canceled theirs, thanks to owner Tom Hicks's hardship-induced budget cuts. (Note: The Stars will still bring top prospects in and, more importantly, participate in the highly regarded Traverse City prospect tournament.) Things are looking up after all.

Before the Islanders' mini-camp convenes this Friday through next Wednesday, today at 12:30 p.m. the Islanders introduce John Tavares to fans (FREE admission) and media at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This follows yesterday's Town of Hempstead meeting at which the draft generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) for the Lighthouse development project was unanimously approved for public review (as expected), and all-day public comment hearings were scheduled for Aug. 4 at Hofstra University. Yesterday's approval begins a 45-day public review period, another step in the process.

The timing could not be more symbolic.

Whereas last winter, our worst fears for this July involved missing on Tavares (or drafting him only to prepare him for life in Kansas City or Hamilton) while the Lighthouse Project stalled, now we have his first on-ice appearance wearing an Islanders logo juxtaposed with a spate of positive news for the new building. [Chris Botta has the roster here.] I'm frequently asked if John Tavares will "save the Islanders." In truth it's the Lighthouse Project that would get that done and not an 18-year-old sniper -- but symbolically the two of them go hand-in-hand.

From the moment he was drafted, Tavares already provided a boost to ticket sales and franchise image. That will no doubt continue after today's formal introduction, on through this week's mini-camp (Sunday's skate is open to the public) and throughout the summer. While the Lighthouse development is about much more than the Islanders, the fact that things are trending upward for its symbolic anchor tenant can only help the tenor of things going into the public meetings next month. September's K.C. foray and Saskatchewan training camp will feel like sharing the NHL's next star with the world, not auditioning the club for a new home.

As Doug said at Official'sOutlook, it can't be stressed enough that this isn't over -- there is so much more to do, and there are likely more political scares ahead: "Revel in this small victory for now, but it'll be time to get back to work tomorrow." But for us Islanders fans, it's been a long road to this point. A little alignment of bright stars was overdue.