The chatter amongst the beat writers ceased immediately when a rear door opened. Quietly, Ted Nolan, led by then VP of Media and Communications Chris Botta, approached the podium. Nolan, wearing a dark suit, perhaps navy, stood over six feet tall. He was an imposing figure. There was a moment of silence before Greg Logan approached with his first question. A few minutes later, after a brief silence Botta asked "that it guys?", and then it was all over. Nolan left, taking the same route as he had on the way in. And there ended my first exposure to the man.
One year ago, the thought of attending opening night for the 08-09 season with someone other than Ted Nolan at the helm of the Islanders would have seemed unimaginable. Yet, here we are again. Another Summer, another PR disaster. Another reason for Islander fans to endure abuse from those affiliated with other local hockey clubs.
The Islanders absolutely had to make this work. The organization could ill afford another blow to its reputation. Separating with a very popular and talented coach should never have been an option. Snow and Wang should have addressed their issues with Nolan, while expressing confidence in his ability to coach this team. The magnanimous approach would have been the appropriate one.
While we can fault all parties for missteps, some of the blame placed on Nolan is not justified. You coach what Nolan had in the Spring and see how many times you utter "you have to do the best with the players you have". I bet it would slip from your mouth once or twice. And Nolan played too defensive of a style toward the end? Alternatively, would you preferred to have seen the Isles lose 8-0 at home to the rangers? Would that have been good for youth development and instilling confidence in the likes of Kyle Okposo?
Sure, Nolan didn't fit in with the organization's vision. Either did Neil Smith. Do you sense a pattern?
One opening night, this year, or perhaps next, hockey fans of another team will be watching Ted Nolan's tall frame walk with confidence as he approaches his podium. There might be a few more journalists, or fewer bloggers and less electrical wiring in their room. But there will be a special coach, a player's coach, whose time to shine may have finally arrived.
Goodbye Ted. You'll be missed.
My buddy nailed two sizable blues, while I simply returned with the joy of knowing "I caught a few bud lights". And fortunately, we returned from a trip during which our sharp toothed predator friends didn't maim any fishermen as they flopped around on deck. So all in all, it was a good day.
The contract extension offered to expert surfer and renowned shark hunter Brendan Witt this week reminds me of a story from Christmas. An Islander Holiday tale. My buddy at work came over to my desk the first business day after Christmas and simply smiled. He said "my girlfriend got me a jersey for Christmas", and then he paused briefly, "she got me a Witter". What better gift can any red blooded Islander fan ask for? Brendan Witt is a monster. His leadership is invaluable. His toughness is unassailable. Some games it seems he takes more pucks off his ankles that DP takes off his leg pads. And fans love him for that.
So thankfully, Snow realized all of this and got us a "Witter" for another 2 years. Two more terrorizing ranger forwards.
Christmas in July.
(Editor's note- I am going to post an entry from earlier in the year about Brendan Witt. I received some nice feedback from it, so I am going to re post it now. The timing is right. Enjoy!)
Top Ten Reasons why people don't mistake me for Brendan Witt
Number 10- It takes Brendan Witt less than 3 weeks to grow visible facial hair
Number 9- If I get sucker punched at work, I don't walk away laughing when my co-worker gets penalized
Number 8- Brendan Witt can call Rick DiPietro's cell phone on a regular basis without having a restraining order issued against him
Number 7- When Brendan Witt gets hit on the ankle with frozen hockey pucks he doesn't scream "Oh, the humanity!" as he lays twitching on the ice
Number 6- When walking outside the Islander locker room, Brendan Witt doesn't hear the equipment manager ask under his breath "who the hell is this guy"?
Number 5- If I come limping home with a black eye and stitches on my forehead my wife doesn't scream "I told you to wear that damn visor!"
Number 4- The thought, "That was a pretty nasty paper cut, looks like a sick day for me tomorrow" has never crossed Brendan Witt's mind
Number 3- Brendan Witt played for the Washington Capitals
Number 2- If I cross checked Sean Avery, I would be arrested (after my lengthy hospital recovery)
And the Number One Reason people don't confuse me for Brendan Witt- I can't tell my wife "I'm going to Ottawa honey, see you in ten days"