On July 1, 2018, the professional ice hockey centre John Tavares became an unrestricted free agent. After nine unbearable years with the New York Islanders — the last five of which he served as captain — Tavares signed a long-term contract with his childhood team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tavares was the face of the Islanders for most of the last decade. An ugly face, but the face nonetheless. So if you attended an Islanders home game during his tenure, whether at Barclays Center or Nassau Coliseum, you’d have seen a sea of no. 91 jerseys in the crowd. When Tavares abandoned the Islanders, it left a whole bunch of fans with a whole bunch of jerseys they’d be unlikely to want to look at or wear ever again.
So, what have Islanders fans done with their Tavares jerseys?
This is the very question I set out to investigate. Since we’re about to see JT with his new team for the first time on Saturday night in Toronto, I figured it a good time to share my findings.
What follows are the results of my investigation.
1. Throw it in the Trash
Let me first reveal what I did with my very own, once-cherished, white #91 jersey: I threw it in the trash. This here is the fish market dumpster across the street from my apartment on Bay Ridge Ave and 18th Ave in Brooklyn.
2. Set it on Fire
As is becoming customary in such instances, some Islanders fans posted videos of themselves burning their Tavares jerseys. I think the one below is the best of these because this fan here takes the time to explain — in a surprisingly calm, rational manner — why he’s burning his jersey. In his words:
“You asked the team not to to be traded...you misled the team into thinking that they had a chance at signing you, going all the way past the midnight deadline, keeping them from pursuing other options that could have helped the team. So yeah, you have the right to go where you want but you know what? We have the right as fans...to do this: [pours gasoline on jersey and burns it to a crisp].”
3. Trade it for Booze
You might recognize Offside Tavern from the MSG Networks commercials that air during Islanders games this season. That’s the Islanders bar on 14th Street in the city. They asked that you not burn your Tavares jersey and instead bring it in and get 70% off your tab.
Don’t burn your jerseys guys. We get that it feels somewhat cathartic, but it’s just wasteful. Give them to us and get 70% off your tab that day. We’ll make sure they end up in the hands of someone less fortunate (and hopefully make an Isles fan out of them) #isles— Offside Tavern NYC (@Offside_Tavern) July 1, 2018
Did anyone take them up on their offer? “Yes, a bunch of people did,” they told me on the phone.
4. Trade it for Bagels
You might also recognize the guys from Bagel Boss, as they, too, are featured in their very own MSG commercials. On July 2nd, they tweeted out an offer: trade in your Tavares jersey in exchange for a dozen bagels.
Turn in your John Tavares jersey for a dozen bagels https://t.co/Fmj1HufBLX via @Newsday @bagelbosshicks @BagelBossUSA— donald rosner (@donaldrosner) July 2, 2018
I spoke with Donnie from Bagel Boss and can confirm this offer still stands. He also told me he received at least 100 Tavares jerseys in total, which he donated to charity.
Please note these two calls I placed to Bagel Boss and Offside Tavern immediately lent my investigation an air of legitimacy and seriousness. I did not just scroll through Twitter to put together this list. I scrolled through Twitter, made two phone calls, went to a few games (to take pictures), and had some email exchanges.
By the way, I just so happened to attend Edward R. Murrow High School growing up. Coincidence?
5. Use it to Scoop Dog Poop
This was passed along to me by a Lighthouse Hockey user who wishes to remain anonymous. What he did was he took the name plates off of his two Tavares jerseys and used them to pick up his dog’s excrement.
So what did he then do with his two nameless #91 Islanders jerseys? As you can see in the video, he turned them into two Butch Goring jerseys. This brings us to the Alterations section.
6. Convert it to a Butch Goring Jersey
This is probably both the most useful and least controversial thing to do with your Tavares jersey: replace the TAVARES name plate with a GORING name plate in honor of the first Islander (and only Stanley Cup MVP) to wear no. 91, Butch Goring.
Goring was acquired at the trade deadline in 1980 and was a pivotal part of all four Stanley Cup-winning teams. This Islanders fan did a good job turning his trash into treasure with these two beauties:
Got my #91 jerseys fixed, now they dont suck !! pic.twitter.com/n9ap70Tzqn— Daniel Oblinger (@islesfandso) August 1, 2018
Butchie initially wore no. 21 when he first got to the Island, but he pulled a reverse-Lou and switched to no. 91 the following season. That season ended with the Islanders winning their second Stanley Cup and Butchie hoisting the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
7. Pay Homage to Butchie’s Toy Department
Butchie isn’t just a former Islander great who wore no. 91; he’s also a fine individual who currently serves as the team’s color commentator on MSG Networks. And as we all know, he likes to call the top shelf of the net the “toy department” because, as he has explained, the toy department was on the top floor of his local mall when he was growing up in Winnipeg.
@91Butch @brendanmburke @ehornick @AGrossNewsday @StapeAthletic OK - Butch is here!? pic.twitter.com/JRQAOjGxoK— Eric Roth (@emotrin) November 18, 2018
8. Custom Name Plate: Traitor
Here are the custom and/or makeshift name plates I came across while searching Twitter and in-person at a few home games.
Hi @91Tavares pic.twitter.com/FzbfDbFr2W— Josh Elkin (@JoshElkin) July 30, 2018
9. Makeshift Name Plate: Trader
This beauty was captured by our very own Jenny Berman.
“trader” pic.twitter.com/0YnQVAowCS— jenny berman (@barzalline) October 24, 2018
10. Makeshift Name Plate: Judas
Here’s one I spotted at a game in early November:
A lot of people don’t know this about Judas, but before he betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was a middling fourth line winger for the Rangers in the Garden of Madison Square. You learn something new every day.
11. Makeshift Name Plate: Dead 2 me
Finally completed my jersey modifications in advance of today’s game. #isles #leafsfail #FUJT pic.twitter.com/x1Kb1VYU4Y— Joe Muccia (@JMuccia3) October 8, 2018
12. Makeshift Name Plate: Dead to me
Buddy.....let it go. pic.twitter.com/apZTwgJzb3— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) November 23, 2018
This fan I spotted at a game decided to keep things simple by crossing out “Tavares” with duct tape.
A few more cross-outs here captured by the legendary Getty photographer, Bruce Bennett:
14. Run over it with car
Thanks to vagueoutlook in the comments:
John Tavares jersey for those who were wondering #Isles pic.twitter.com/1PYRdsKgyn— Craig Dixon (@CraigJDixon) September 16, 2018
Thus concludes my investigation.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.