“I’ve lived long enough to have learned. The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned. But that won’t happen to us. Cause it’s always been a matter of trust.”
Billy Joel “A Matter of Trust”
For a long time, there was a lack of trust between the Islanders and their fans, but times have certainly changed and there’s a lot to be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving.
The most important connection that a fan base can have with a franchise that they root for is trust. Plain and simple. If you look around the sports landscape in the New York/New Jersey area right now, there are very few franchises that can say they have the trust of the fans.
The Yankees? Yes, probably because they do have a track record of success but I wish they weren’t managed by a computer.
The Mets? They’ve been to a World Series more recently than the Yankees and they finished over .500 this past season but I’m not sure the fans believe…just yet.
The Knicks? You don’t need any clarification to know that they’re a mess.
The Nets? I think the trust is building with the new regime especially after signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Jets? Even with three wins in a row, a majority of the base doesn’t trust the Johnson family whether they make it known on sports talk shows, social media or a sign attached to a plane.
The Giants? There hasn’t been a lack of trust by the fans of this franchise since the Joe Pisarcik fumble and the burning of tickets that let to George Young being hired as General Manager
Now to hockey…
The Devils? They were a surprise team a couple of seasons ago, but with the possible exodus of Taylor Hall as a free agent looming, the fans are getting a bit concerned.
The Rangers? Unlike the Knicks, fans of the other Madison Square Garden team have trust in this team because it wasn’t long ago that they went to the Stanley Cup Final and the fans seem to be buying into their rebuild.
And that brings us to the Islanders.
Think about everything that has happened to this franchise since the Stanley Cup era. Sure, there have been some cool moments since then like the “Easter Epic”, the playoff run of 1993, ending a long playoff drought in 2002, and finally winning a playoff series in 2016 after a 23-year journey.
But I can also give you a plethora of things that were basically a punch to the gut for Islanders fans. From John Pickett becoming an absentee owner to trading away Pat LaFontaine being traded away after a contract dispute to the team being up for sale to the “Gang of Four” who let Bill Torrey walk out the door and welcomed in Don Maloney.
From John Spano to the fisherman jerseys to Mike Milbury to Millstein and Gluckstern to Kirk Muller to the start of arena drama to Charles Wang saving the team to Long Island politicians not willing to play ball with him on a new arena to Garth Snow to a revolving door of coaches to moving to Brooklyn to Brett Yormark’s shenanigans to John Tavares turning his back on the franchise.
I probably missed a few but you get the idea. It had been a long time since Islanders fans had trust in the team but that is now a thing of the past. Since Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky bought the team, they’ve followed through on their mission to restore the Islanders as a world class sports franchise.
They upgraded their practice facility on Long Island and brought in a Hall of Fame President and General Manger in Lou Lamoriello along with a Stanley Cup winning Head Coach in Barry Trotz. They reached an agreement to build a new arena at Belmont Park and also transitioned the Islanders back to Long Island with a return to Nassau Coliseum for what was supposed to be only 12 games last year but wound up being 21 games and the first round of the playoffs. This year, it was supposed to be 21 games and now that number is at 28 and I’ve heard there could be a few more moved from Brooklyn.
After years and years of nonsense and political fiascos, the Islanders are once again operating that a major professional sports franchise. Jon Ledecky promised a new arena and now we see a hole in the ground with construction well underway. They re-signed three important free agents in captain Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle. They are off to a great start this season that included a franchise record 17 game scoring streak.
This franchise is done with ownership issues, claims that the roof is falling, “pigs at the trough”, “The New Ice Age” with the same old story, financially motivated trades of star players, obstructed view seats, a scoreboard that hangs over the blue line, and being the laughing stock of the NHL. It’s really cool to be an Islanders fan again because the right people are in place.
A year or so ago, my son Bradley sat down with me to watch the “30 For 30” documentary about John Spano. At first, he thought it was a fictional story but I kept telling him that this all really happened and as he continued to watch he was just amazed that something like that could really happen.
“And it happened to the Islanders,” he said. “This would have been a great movie if it was a made-up story but the fact that it really happened is crazy.”
I’ve spent years showing Bradley and my younger son Jared videos of the Stanley Cup years and even some of the other great moments. Sometimes I’ve really had to convince them that at one point the Islanders were to the NHL what the New England Patriots are to the NFL right now. They were really good.
And now, they good again with a terrific future both short term and long term. They’ve gained back the trust of the fans and that has Islanders Country thankful.