When I was very young I didn't have much exposure to hockey. It was the early 90's and the Red Wings were not what they would become later on; Detroit hadn't yet become the self proclaimed "hockey town". That wouldn't have mattered anyways as my father didn't like hockey he only watched football, and my mother couldn't care less about sports in general. So how did I become a fan of a team in a different state and different conference that was from a sport that I didn't have much access too? I owe everything, all of the excitement, disappointment, joy and anguish, all of the roller coaster of emotions I have felt was all due to a single book.
Before I was in school my mother wanted me to learn how to read, so she devoted all her time to teaching me before it was time for me to step on to the school bus for the first time. She felt the best thing to do was to buy as many books as she could from yard sales or rummage sales or anywhere she could buy a stack of books for next to nothing. I had books on everything from cars to baseball to rocketships, but one book stood out as a kid and for some reason I kept choosing over and over to have my mom teach me how to read on. That book was The Triumphant Islanders: Hockey's New Dynasty by Stan Fischler from 1976. Not only did I learn how to read on that book but I fell in love with a sport that was relatively unknown to me.
That year the Islanders would beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. I was too young to understand how big of a deal that was, to me it was "well of course they did, they are the greatest team of all time" sorta thing. They wouldn't win the cup, but I was sure it was a fluke and they would win next year.
When I finally made it to school I couldn't wait to tell everyone about this amazing sport and this wonderful team. I brought the book with me to show and tell in first grade. I would find every kid on recess and talk about hockey to them. Most kids hadn't ever even heard of the Islanders. A couple years later the Red Wings would go on to win back to back Stanley Cups but my love for a team on Long Island would not change, obviously the Islanders will win next year. I would spend my recess at school trading hockey cards with friends, trading my Mike Vernon or Chris Osgood cards for Mark Fitspatrick or Eric Fichaud or Tommy Salo cards. They might have been getting the better cards now, but they would be jealious when Ziggy Palffy is raising the cup next year is what I would think. Obviously my heart was bigger than my brain back then.
As I grew older I would start to notice the team I love is no longer the team from my book, but my love would never falter. Even through the worst years and the worst Milbury moments; I never gave up hope. I never stopped believing that next year was the year they would win it all.
The biggest change that would impact me positively was when NHL rolled out their Center Ice streaming service, no longer did I have to hope to be lucky enough that for some reason an Islander game would just happen to show up on my TV, now I can watch every game. It didn't matter to me that they were not a very good team at the time, I was actually getting to watch the team I have idolized as a kid regularly. To this day I have only missed a handful of games since NHL launched that.
I may have never watched the Islanders lift the cup in my lifetime, and only seen them make the second round twice; but all the waiting is just going to make it even more sweeter when they win the cup next year.