My first thought after reading Logan's piece was that it was likely an article designed to stir up some interest and debate at a time when it must be challenging for a beat writer to attract the attention of readers, given the team's disappointing finish to the season. Having said that, the fact that there may even be a remote chance that Islander management is questioning Nolan's future with the team is disturbing.
Before we even discuss that the Isles can expect to miss approximately 400 man games due to injury this year we have to consider that the team which skated out on opening night was a sixth to tenth seeded team. Frankly, sixth to eighth seed was a fairly ambitious goal given the exodus of free agents in July. Without some stellar play by our franchise goaltender in the first half of the season, we could have been out of it by the all-star break. We were plagued even then by a lackluster powerplay and a general inability to score. And the team was largely healthy. Yet, given the lack of scoring talent, Coach Nolan was able to get his guys to play competitively.
Fast forward to today. Injuries. I haven't seen a team so decimated by injuries since my grammer school basketball team was stricken with chicken pox. And yet, when this team has seemingly little to play for, they play with heart, grit, and character. I think Nolan's greatest accomplishment this year is largely overlooked. He got a non-playoff team comprised of AHL players, a back-up goalie and a hand full of veterans to play each game like it really mattered.
And let's not forget the intangibles he brings to the table. My experience in the locker room exposed me to a coach whose professionalism is unassailable. He is a coach who literally smiles when names like Park, Bergenheim, and Comeau are merely mentioned, and will be a wonderful mentor to Kyle Okposo. I think he reserves complaint for the just the right situations. When referees calls are particularly glaring or when players (like Holweg who grabbed at Martinek's stiches) clearly step over the line. His restraint makes his critical comments meaningful.
Being the coach of the Islanders this year was not for the weak of heart. And yet, Coach Nolan accorded himself like a true professional. He is the coach to lead this young and developing team into Cup contention.
If I were Charles Wang, I would take Ted Nolan out to dinner. Just he and I. And I would offer him a contract extension.
Right after I thanked him for being here.
The participants and spectators of the aforementioned argument included two Isle fans (myself included), a devil fan, a ranger fan and several non-combatants. Add alcohol and all the ingredients for an incident that would at some point require attorneys were present. Luckily, it didn't come to that.
The evening started off innocuously enough with talk about upcoming weddings, work, gaming and the dude walking around the bar in a red jester outfit for some sort of promotion. About an hour into the night hockey inevitably became the central point of discussion. Myself, my fellow Isle fan, and our jersey devil fan were debating Scott Stevens. We all agreed that the guy was absolutely killer. A guy that any hockey fan would want on their team. I recalled many times watching the devils in the playoffs and seeing Scott Stevens sitting in the penalty box twitching. "You'd have to be absolutely out of your mind to $#!& with that guy", I said, "if I were an opposing winger, I would have just shot the puck away before he got anywhere near me and played dead". A brief silence followed and was broken when my buddy added "he can't hold a candle to Potvin though."
That's where the unpleasantness began as my devil fan friend seemed to shrug off the comment and was asked immediately "what was that face for?" We proceeded to beat this guy over the head with facts until he abandoned whatever doubts he may have had. Potvin was just as scary to opposing players, if not more so, was in a class of his own while playing point, and was sick with his breakout passes. Stevens had some of this, but not the same offensive prowess, and certainly not the 1052 career points. After all the abuse this poor devil fan took he just smiled and said "I was only trying to give Jim a hard time. I'd put him above Stevens too." If you were wondering where our ranger fan was during this discussion, he was too busy watching the blueshirts play on the hdtv and mingling with the non-hockey crowd. We didn't need him to place Leetch behind Stevens in the pecking order of defensemen anyway.
I told my friend, the devil fan who is getting married next month, "enjoy your honeymoon, it will be the best sex you ever had. Just don't let your wife find out." We all had a good laugh and moved off the topic of hockey as quickly as we arrived on it.
On the train ride home that night, thoughts of DP's hip surgery, the Islander's upcoming 1st round draft pick, and dinner floated around my head. At eleven o'clock I made potato pancakes from Trader Joe's and tried not to wake my wife.
Such is a night in the life of a hockey fan, and I'll drink to that.
At least that's what I came away thinking after listening to Charles Wang's interview with "Mike and the Mad Dog" last week. First, let me say this. The Fan is often criticized for lacking hockey coverage. And while that criticism may have some merit, Russo and Francesa came to the Coliseum and put forth a great lineup of programming. Their questions were insightful, and if they have limited knowledge of the Islander organization and team, it did not show. In fact, I saw Francesa entering the arena at the last home game I attended on another evening all together. So kudos to them for doing a bang up job.
Their interview with Wang, which dealt extensively with the Lighthouse Project was enlightening, and is the source of my post tonight. The Islander owner indicated that the team is currently waiting on approval from the Town of Hempstead to move forward on the Lighthouse project. Following that approval, the project would go back to Nassau County for the final green light. The decision from Hempstead is expected as early as this Summer, and if all goes perfectly, construction will begin on the current Coliseum in July 2009.
However, anyone following these proposals is aware that this is easier said than done. First, when asked by Russo, Wang indicated that the Islanders will never have to play at another arena during construction. If all goes as planned and renovation of NVMC begins July '09, the lower bowl only will be renovated in the off season and the Isles will play many of their first games on the road, similar to the Devils this year. The remaining work on the upper bowl will be completed in the following off season. Russo seemed a little incredulous that such work can be completed over 4 months in two consecutive Summers. Seems like a tall order to me as well.
Further discussion was devoted to the overall magnitude of the Lighthouse. Sports facilities, residences, hotels, office space and canals are envisioned. Mr. Wang thought it is integral to the overall development of Long Island as a whole that this project include all of these elements. The only problem is, as much as the scope of their ambition sounds impressive, it also makes is seem harder to achieve. Could approval from the relevant government bodies have been easier if we were simply building a new arena? I don't know.
And finally, the scary part. When asked by Mike if the Coliseum would be renovated if the Lighthouse project does not go through, Wang said it was very unlikely. And the obvious inference, which Wang would not comment on, was the possibility of the Isles having to leave Long Island if his overall project fails. So every Islander fan better hope that we'll all be skating on a frozen canal in Uniondale in Winter 2010. Otherwise, we can all get fitted for our Flyer jerseys.
After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
First, let me provide some background. Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Core of the Four Event on Long Island. I arrived for the Parade of Champions an hour early to ensure a good spot on line. It was a very memorable experience as Islander legends walked mere feet from my position. Bryan Trottier threw me a little high five action, and towards the end of the parade, after having just handed off the Cup, Denis Potvin swung over to me and stretched his huge hand out as we exchanged a high five as well. All I did was offer up a little fist pump and he, as if sensing that I may be one of his biggest fans, found me. It was a emotional and unforgettable day, which brings me to my current dilemma.
Of course, I couldn't embark on such a once in a lifetime experience without a camera to document the special day. And on Monday night, I picked up my developed pics, and knew immediately that they would have to be shared with the World. The next day, I went with a buddy to Bed Bath & Beyond to purchase a frame. "These pictures must be framed and mounted in my home!", I thought. So Thursday night, I struggled for a half hour deciding which four photos to mount, and another half hour meticulously arranging the photos in the matted frame, constantly concerned about layout and symmetry.
Well Friday morning rolled around and I said to my wife "Honey, I have something to show you. You might be very proud of me because I know you love arts and crafts." I proceeded to pull the frame out of the closet. "Wow Jim, that's really nice", she said in an upbeat tone, "you know where that would look great? Your office at work." Well I was very touched that she seemed so supportive. She looked generally impressed.
But then I started to think. One, I don't even have an office at work. And two, this was all a sneaky attempt to tell me "if you think your hanging those pictures up in this house, you're out of your mind. Matted frame or no matted frame." I was forlorn at work. Until that is, I came up with a plan!
My wife is going away this weekend to visit her parents, and while she is gone, I'm going to hang the matted frame with the four photos (Coliseum, Ice Girls, Potvin & Cup and Core of Four Ceremony, respectively) next to my Potvin "Norris x 3" autographed photo. I'll call it "The Wall of Fame". Loyal readers of this blog will recall the unpleasantness that arose when I hung the first autographed photo last year, so understandably, I'm a little nervous. But I have no choice. If not for me, it would be unfair to future guests of our home to leave those pictures out of view.
Now be sure to check in here Sunday night when I document the aftermath of my wife's return and discovery of my "home improvement". I plan to post photo's as well, of the framed pictures, and of our air mattress. After all, I may be spending a lot of time sleeping on it come Sunday evening.
Sunday evening update - 5.18 PM, March 9th. Plan backfires.
Well, my wife came home earlier than expected, at 7 pm Saturday evening, before I even had a chance to mount the photos. No big deal I thought, I'll just install it Sunday afternoon when she goes grocery shopping. However, on Sunday morning, as I was playing Call of Duty 4 multiplayer and trying to avoid camping snipers, my wife came running in from the bedroom and yelled "So, while I was out, huh!" So my wife, who I mistakenly thought read my blog (and comments) less frequently than she does, read all about my plan before I could implement it. Fortunately though, as surprised as she was, she was a good sport about it and seemed quite amused. And at 5.00 PM, before we left for Sunday Night Mass, I hung the pictures with her blessing.
Well, at least until the next Islander Alumni event.
A general synopsis of my college experience.
Important components, however, of another monumental event, this Sunday's Core of the Four Celebration in Uniondale. Two years ago, when the Isles held the 25th anniversary celebration of the first Cup I was unable to attend because of work, which had me out of state of the time. There will be nothing that keeps me from attending this Sunday however, as it will afford me an opportunity to see something that every Islander fans should be honored to witness in their lifetime, our Captain, number 5, making his way back home while carrying Lord Stanley's Cup.
The discussion of the dynasty years and the Cup finds me again considering our modern day organization, and its effort to return to greatness. If you've been reading my blog all year long, you would have noticed a trend. I felt from early on that the Isles were not built for a playoff run and needed to recognize that the best hope for a championship would come in the form of building, a term used frequently by GM Garth Snow as the trade deadline approached. We have a goaltender just heading into his prime, and we simply need to build a team around him that can make a run into June. You can hit up the Times blog to the right to get my thoughts on all of the Islander trades (just search for my blog name, or conversely, spend 4 hours trying to find me by conventional means). I was not afforded an opportunity there to address the trade that did not happen, and the source of the biggest disappointment for me on Tuesday. We could not move Satan for a pick. Miro, a notoriously streaky goal scorer, has seemed to bottom out when we most desperately needed scoring this year. A first round pick, or maybe even a second round pick in a deep draft was a big lost opportunity for a team interested in building. I've been told by BD and Tom Liodice that he was not even asked to waive his NTC. Having said all this, I do not know if there was universal reluctance by GM's to take on Miro given his knee problems, to be fair to Garth. I'm equally surprised that we could not move a hot Fedetenko to a playoff contender for a high pick, if not Miro. All in all, I walked away Tuesday night feeling as if there were opportunities lost.
Regardless, its history now. Its time to get behind this team and our GM as we all strive for our common goal.
Until then, I will relive my college years in the friendly confines of a hockey arena, the path laid before me by champions.