Islanders Working Towards A New Year’s Day Start

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day.  A world in white gets underway.  I want to be with you…Be with you, night and day.  Nothing changes on New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day I will be with you again.  I will be with you again.”

U2-New Year’s Day

If all goes according to plan, a very big if given the world we’re living in, the National Hockey League will begin the 2020-21 regular season on January 1st.  With all due respect to the great band U2, New Year’s Day is not generally a quiet one for the NHL as it’s been the day for the Winter Classic, the league’s annual celebration of the sport taking the game back it’s roots with an outdoor game at a football or baseball stadium.  And if things work out the way the league is hoping, the Islanders and the other 30 teams in the NHL will be with each other, perhaps night and day, to start a season not long after the 2019-20 campaign ended.

Right now, there seems to be an optimistic outlook that the puck will drop again on January 1st.

“I certainly do think we’ll be playing hockey,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Wednesday following the NHL Draft.  “What we do have is a target date.  All I say to our players is you look at it like it as like it’s October 7th or 8th and now it’s January.  You work backwards to your preparation in getting ready to play. These times are certainly unpredictable. They’re fluid. We just have to adjust.”

Islanders Hope To Ring In A New Year That Takes Them To The Promised Land: 

And the Islanders are certainly eager to get back to work after a playoff run that took them to the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay where they came up just wins shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.  Once the Islanders returned from Edmonton, the players had a chance to take a deep breath and now they have begun preparations for next season, a campaign that is, when you think about it, just around the corner.

VANCOUVER, BC – MARCH 10: New York Islanders Center Mathew Barzal (13) skates with the puck during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on March 10, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire)

“Our players certainly played a good distance this year,” said Lamoriello. “They’re right back at it now working out and getting prepared and getting focused on what they have to do to be best prepared.  We don’t look at it any different.”

After Tampa Bay hoisted the Stanley Cup, the attention around the NHL shifted to an off-season that has already had and will continue to have events and news that will come at everyone 100 miles an hour.  There have already been signings, buyouts, trades and the draft with the next item being free agency that will begin on Friday.  But now that the league has announced the target date of January 1st for the start of the new season, there is the one burning question that nobody can answer right now.

There Is Still Uncertainty For the Islanders And The Other NHL Teams: 

How will the 2020-21 season look?

“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman on the NHL Network on Tuesday prior to the start of the draft.  “Our hope is to have a full season…full regular season and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.”

BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 19: New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz takes advice during a game between the Boston Bruins and the New York islanders on December 19, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

As the Islanders prepare for free agency and putting together a roster for next season that they hope will take them to the ultimate goal of the fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history, there is the issue of where some of their prospects can play while the pandemic is ongoing in North America.  The regular season is underway in Europe and that is where some Islanders prospects are currently playing including 2018 first round pick Oliver Wahlstrom.

Could there be more Islanders prospects heading to other countries?  The answer is yes.

“We’ve got a couple of players there playing now,” said Lamoriello.  “If we do it, we want to place them somewhere where they’re going to be used towards their strengths as far as their development.  We are trying to do it.”

Islanders Set To Go From “The Barn” To “The Bank”: 

When the season does begin, whether it’s January 1st or another date if the NHL has to have a change of plans, the Islanders will be playing their home games at Nassau Coliseum.  It will be, for the second time, the final season that the Islanders will play at “The Barn”, their home from 1972 to 2015 and part-time residence the last two seasons.  One year from now, the Islanders will be moving to their new home, UBS Arena at Belmont Park, which is currently under construction.

So, after coming up six wins short of hoisting the Stanley Cup, the prospects of an upgraded roster, and with one last hurrah at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike before moving about eight miles west, the Islanders and their fans are having some good vibes as they look ahead to January 1st.

“It’s an exciting time for the Islanders as I’ve said often with Belmont,” said Lamoriello.  “It’s going to be just an outstanding facility.  Our players are excited about it and having one more year at the (Nassau) Coliseum, there’s an excitement there so there’s a lot of positive things going on right now. Certainly, we have some work to do we know that and we’ll get that done in due course.”

Circling back to U2, one thing that will change this New Year’s Day is that while there still could be a Winter Classic, the focus of January 1st won’t necessarily be on the league’s marquee regular season game but that the date is expected to signal the start of the new season.  And depending on what the world looks like at the time, the hope is that Islanders and fans, as well as fans of the other NHL teams will be able to come see their favorite club in person at their home arena.

If that can somehow happen, we’ll all be with each other again.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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