When you’re at an Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum, you can’t help but see, feel, and smell the history and the memories that “The Barn” played host to in the late 70’s and early 80’s. All you have to do is look up into the rafters and you will see four Stanley Cup banners from 1979-80 to 1982-83 as well as a plethora of division, conference, and regular season championship banners. There are also the many banners for retired numbers as well as a banner for the Islanders Hall of Fame.
While those banners represent some great memories for Islanders Country, there have only been a few other seasons since then when the franchise was close to hoisting the cup again. Whether it was getting to the Stanley Cup Final for a 5th straight year in 1984, a run to the Wales Conference Final in 1993 and last season’s magical ride in the bubble to the Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders have been searching for that elusive 5th Stanley Cup for 38 years.
The current Islanders team is hoping to carve out a legacy of their own when it comes to franchise history.
“You get chills when you see that stuff,” said Islanders forward Mat Barzal when asked about the dynasty teams. “You can tell how hard they worked and how exciting it was for them. When we’ve met a few of those guys, they’ve been able to talk a little bit about it and just how fun it was awesome the island was when they did win. It’s motivation for us.”
For the current Islanders team, there are reminders of the dynasty teams all around them when they show up for work whether it’s for games at Nassau Coliseum or when they are at their Northwell Health Ice Center practice facility at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. The lobby has a showcase with Islanders trophies and the Islanders Hall of Fame plaques, that used to be in the hallway next to the old Islanders dressing room at Nassau Coliseum, are on the wall upstairs in-between the two practice rinks.
One of the rinks is the “Arbour Rink” named after legendary Islanders Head Coach Al Arbour and features the same ARBOUR 1500 banner as well as the identical Stanley Cup Banners that are in the rafters at the Coliseum. The other rink is the “Torrey Rink” which is named after the team’s first General Manager Bill Torrey, the architect of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup dynasty. That rink has the same retired number banners and the Islanders Hall of Fame banner that at Nassau Coliseum.
Those great Islanders teams of the past, including the 1975 Islanders who rallied from an 0-3 hole in the quarterfinals to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games and the 1987 Islanders who trailed the Capitals three games to one in the opening round of the playoffs only to come back and win the series, always had a “never-say-die” attitude and played the game the right way with a lot of structure, grit and tenacity.
“That’s the identity that I want the Islanders to have that they would be hard to play against and they’re not going to quit,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz during a Zoom meeting with reporters earlier this season. “That’s why to my right here (at the practice facility) there are four championship banners because that team was full of that.”
But the current day Islanders aren’t just reminded about the dynasty years by the banners, trophies and the video clips that are shown on the video boards after games. There are real life reminders about the glory years because many former Islanders players are often at games, practices, or other Islanders events. So, when guys like Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, and John Tonelli are around, the current players have the opportunity to talk to those legends and get a better understanding of what it means to be an Islander and what it’s like to win it all on Long Island.
“I think that’s huge having that history,” said Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. “Just having those guys around, seeing them at games. We get to see all of that stuff. We’re constantly reminded of it. You look in our locker room and we got little reminders here and there whether it’s the cups or its just those guys here. It’s how good they were so I think our biggest thing is the fans are so passionate about that time period. We just want to be able to bring that back for them and try to replicate what they did and bring another one home.”
Last season, the Islanders came up six wins shy of the fifth Stanley Cup in team history. This year, they have advanced to round two of the playoffs and there is excitement in the air because it’s the Islanders’ final season at Nassau Coliseum before moving to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season. There are memories of the dynasty years all over Islanders Country that serve as motivation an inspiration for the current group. The storybook ending would have the Islanders win the Stanley Cup at “The Barn” and raise the banner this fall at UBS arena. Regardless of how this season turns out, the franchise is on the right track and there is hope of that championship feeling returning to Long Island.
Those four Stanley Cup banners would sure be happy to welcome a new addition to the family!