NY Sports Day

Schwartz: Islanders Fisherman Jersey Enjoying A Renaissance

There’s a saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Back in 1995, the Islanders should have followed that saying, but the infamous “Gang of Four” that was running the team for owner John Pickett at the time determined that the struggling franchise needed a new look.  I had already seen the Fisherman logo and uniform because someone I knew in the sports apparel business had shown me a leaked photo of it.  But I still went to the official unveiling that took place at a media event at the Nassau Coliseum because I just had to see the real thing in person.

I’ll always remember the moment when an Islanders media relations person came over to me to get my opinion on it.  She knew, as well as most people in the organization, that I was a huge Islanders fan so maybe I wasn’t the best person to ask but as I was staring at the jerseys, she delivered the question.

“Peter, you’re a big Islanders fan…what do you think?”

30 Jan, 1997: Zigmund Palffy of the New York Islanders in action against the Calgary Flames at the Canadien Airlines Sadledome in Calgary, Canada. Mandatory Credit: Ian Tomlinson /Allsport

I should have been completely honest and said I hated it because that’s truly how I felt.  The Islanders had a great logo that was unique because it had, and thankfully today still has, their geographic home of Long Island combined with the “NY” that connects them to the entire region.  There was no need to change but I also didn’t want to sound like a grouch so I kind of quietly mumbled a lie to her.

“It’s nice,” I seem to recollect saying.

I don’t think she bought it and she was right.  I couldn’t have been more full of…crap…in saying that but I’m sure she had already heard plenty of negative comments and I just wanted to end the conversation. 

Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but I do own home and away Islanders fisherman jerseys.  Hey, I was a fan of the team so I wanted to wear what they were wearing.  But at the end of the day, they were collectors’ items that hung in the closets of my various residences for years. 

The fisherman logo lasted just two seasons in 1995-96 and 1996-97 but in that second year, the team went back to the original logo on the wave jerseys as a third jersey that became the regular jersey in 1997-98.  Yeah you guessed it…I bought the revised home and away wave jerseys with the original logos.

Then the fisherman logo and the wave jersey were “buried out to sea” at a Jones Beach press conference to introduce a new jersey which kind of resembled the original jersey but had a darker blue.  The fisherman logo would return for one night during the Islanders’ final season at the original Nassau Coliseum.  On February 3rd, 2015, the Islanders wore special fisherman warmup jerseys that were then auctioned off for charity.

That night, I took my son Bradley to the game because we just had to see this and say goodbye fisherman for the second time.  I wore one of my old fisherman jerseys and Bradley, nine years old at the time, wore a shirt that my wife Sheryl was able to make for him with the fisherman logo and the secondary lighthouse logo.  Bradley is now 14 and he often raids my closet to wear my old fisherman jerseys and the revised wave jerseys.  My younger son Jared is nine and he has a fisherman logo puck and a fisherman logo hat. 

Why do I think I’m going to have to get Jared a fisherman jersey?

The boys love the fisherman logo and apparently others do as well because the Islanders are once again selling the vintage jerseys and they have introduced a new line of hats with the fisherman and lighthouse logos.  What was old and hated is now new again but now strangely loved.  The logos have been introduced to a new generation of Islanders fans that have seemingly embraced it as well as some older fans that maybe just can’t forget about that chapter in Islanders history.

The fisherman jerseys represent a real dark era of Islanders hockey, but this renaissance is just so fascinating.  There has been plenty of discussion on social media that maybe the Islanders could bring back the fisherman as a third jersey somewhere down the road.  The team is not killing that discussion by continuing to introduce more items so maybe where there’s smoke there’s fire. 

I have a few theories on the fisherman jersey having lived through the first era of it…

First, had the Islanders been a good team in 1995 and still changed the logo, I don’t think there would have been as big of a negative reaction to it.

Second, had the team introduced the fisherman as a third jersey instead of a primary jersey, I think the concept would have been embraced and maybe it would have lived longer.

Third, had the alternate wave jersey with the original logo been introduced as the primary jersey right off the bat, it also would have probably been embraced or at least would not have had nearly the bad reaction as the fisherman jersey.

Having said all of that, I actually feel that the “return” of the fisherman jerseys and apparel, even it it’s simply to be a talking point and a novelty item, is not horrible.  I really believe in tradition and I instill that in my kids all the time, but if they like something and it’s not vulgar or anything like that, who am I to tell them they can’t like it or have it. 

The Islanders are also doing this at a time when the team is good, so any conversation about the fisherman logo is simply a secondary or alternate discussion to the great results that are happening on the ice. 

Could they bring the fisherman jersey back as a third jersey or maybe just a game?  They could. 

Should they bring it back in any capacity?  That’s up to ownership and management.

There are so many good things happening for the Islanders right now including great ownership and management, the on-ice product, more games back at Nassau Coliseum, and the Belmont Park Arena currently under construction.  They don’t need to rekindle a time when the team was a laughing stock and fans of other teams were calling the Islanders “fishsticks” because the logo looked like the Gorton’s Fisherman. 

On the other hand, is there any harm bringing it back for a night as a gag?  The franchise is in great hands now and the fan base has been energized by the renaissance of good hockey on the ice, but just for a laugh…for maybe a look at just how ridiculous it was to come up with the look in 1995, maybe they can bring it back for a game or a handful of games.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  But the bottom line is the bottom line and people are buying the fisherman apparel so the team can actually make some extra money off of the fisherman renaissance.   But let’s just keep it to a minimum, keep it away from big games and the playoffs.  I can actually look at the jersey now and laugh a bit at it.  I would wear my jerseys if they still fit me, but since they don’t, I’ll just my kids fight over them. 

The Islanders are bringing me and the rest of Islanders Country so much joy these days that I just can’t be angry about the fisherman jerseys anymore.  It’s actually kind of cool that the jerseys have a cult following now.

So now that the fisherman jerseys are back, what are the chances of bringing back the orange third jerseys! I really liked those!


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