While covering the Islanders over the last two seasons for New York Sports Day, my main objective has been to cover the team in a way that is professional and objective while also sprinkling in another perspective. Many of you already know this, but for those who don’t let me be completely transparent with you. I’ve been a fan of this franchise since 1977 when I was ten years old so it’s a unique experience to cover a team that I love. With every story that I’ve written over these last two magical seasons, I’ve tried my best to write insightful stories that you would all enjoy and my intention was also to inject the passion of what it means to be a part of this fan base.
I hope that what I set out to do has worked and that you’ve enjoyed my coverage.
However, considering what transpired in Tampa on Friday night, as I sit down to write this story, I’ve taken my reporters hat off completely and I’m putting on my Islanders hat because I want every word of this story to come from my heart. No quotes from the players. No quotes from Head Coach Barry Trotz. Many of you read and heard what they had to say after a season-ending 1-0 loss to the Lightning in game seven of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, so please forgive me if this story is just a bit on the unprofessional side.
Last season, the Islanders came two wins shy of going to the Stanley Cup Final and this year they were within one game of reaching the championship round for the first time since 1984…and it hurts. It hurts a lot.
When searching for a word to describe my feelings and emotions, I came up with devastation. The Islanders overcame the loss of Captain Anders Lee during the regular season and they rallied in the first two rounds of the playoffs to beat the Penguins and Bruins. To see them battle the defending Stanley Cup champs all the way to the seventh game and to come up one goal short, all I can think of is being devastated. That’s how I felt and that’s how my sons Bradley and Jared felt while we watched the final seconds run down together.
And then, my boys expressed a little anger before they cried themselves to sleep. These last two years have been pretty special for them because, quite frankly, there really wasn’t much to cheer about before the Scott Malkin/Jon Ledecky/Lou Lamoriello/Barry Trotz era began. I used to have to show them YouTube videos to show them how good the Islanders were when I was a kid and that was when the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. But watching them display their anger and sadness over coming up just a bit short of the Stanley Cup Final two years in a row, I remembered that I had the same feelings many years ago.
Sometimes, a team has to suffer some heartache before they reach the top of the mountain and the Islanders have been there, done that and have the banners to prove it.
The Islanders lost game seven of the 1977-78 quarterfinals to the Toronto Maple Leafs on a Lanny McDonald overtime goal at Nassau Coliseum. The following season, the Islanders had the most regular season points in the NHL but in the semifinals, they lost to the Rangers in six games. In 1979-80, it all came together with the first of four straight Stanley Cups.
I’ve told my kids about that many times before and I reminded them about it right after the game as I tried to console them. To be fair, I was devastated by the loss as well, but I didn’t really have a chance to let it out because I was trying to calm down my boys. I told them this loss is going to sting for a while but that winning a championship can be a process and for the Islanders, it just wasn’t their time…yet.
I know what Islanders Country is going through right now. I feel it because I’m part of you. The passion is there whether I’m in the seats as a fan with my family at a game or if I’m sitting in the press box as a journalist covering a game. Regardless of how I express myself on the outside, nothing changes on the inside. I was ten years old and eleven years old the last time the Islanders had back-to-back crushing playoff losses. For the generations of Islanders fans that began rooting for the team after the dynasty years, here’s what I can tell you as an old fart Islanders fan…
It’s okay to feel the sadness and the anger right now. It’s going to be there for a while and it probably will stick until the off-season moves start to happen.
Appreciate what this group accomplished this season and what a large majority of the players have accomplished over the last three seasons.
Embrace where this franchise is now with fantastic ownership, a Hall of Fame General Manager, a Stanley Cup winning Head Coach a solid core of players who fight for each other and are learning how to win and a magnificent new home UBS Arena coming next season.
Remember that many championship teams suffer growing pains on their way to hoisting Lord Stanley. There’s no sugarcoating the fact that this loss hurts but the pain will subside over time.
Relish the many incredible memories and moments that the Islanders gave you at Nassau Coliseum over the years. We’re all going to miss “The Barn”.
Don’t stop beLIeving.
See you all at the new place next season when the Islanders begin a new era of special memories.