Or this post could be called “Living in a Blue and White World”.
Let’s get this out of the way now… I’m a New York Islanders fan. From this moment to this moment. From the classic blue and orange to Captain Highliner and back again. The questions I get asked the most is – why?
Well, in my early years, the Isles were winning the Stanley Cups…not once, twice…but for 4 consecutive years (and they would’ve had more too but a certain kid from Brantford killed that dream) they were the team to beat and as a youngster nothing made me more of a fan than watching a winner. Maple Leafs fans on the other hand, enjoy passing down futility to future generations.
As a teenager, early ’90′s teams made up of Pierre Turgeon, Derek King, Ray Ferraro, and super-pest Darius Kasparaitis gave me something to get excited about, while Leafs fans themselves were getting delirious about their team. The Miracle of 1993 playoff run was a memorable one. Watching the team knock off the Capitals, then the defending champion (back-to-back) Pittsburgh Penguins, it had me dreaming of an Islanders-Maple Leafs Stanley Cup final. I couldn’t wait! Of course, reality set in and the Isles lost to the eventual Cup winners from Montreal, while Toronto lost to that kid from Brantford.
It wasn’t until the 2001-02 season that my rooting interest in the team became a major issue among hockey fans in the area (read: Leafs fans) when the Isles met the Buds in the first round. Me and my friends hurled abuse and insults at each other. But even though we talked a lot of trash, we all agreed it was going to be a great series between 2 very talented and evenly matched squads, the 4th and 5th ranked teams in the Conference.
The Leafs took games 1 and 2, New York stormed back in 3 and 4, and then IT happened. Darcy Tucker, aka Sideshow Bob, went knee-hunting. The Isles lost that game 6-3 and while they forced game 7, the writing was on the wall. They lost in Toronto 4-2.
Looking back on it, Tucker’s hit didn’t just bump my team out of the playoffs that year, it knocked them back 5 years. Everything went downhill. In the years that followed, the team seemed to get more publicity for what it was doing off the ice (firing their GM a month after hiring him, getting rid of coaches for “philosophical” differences) and there was also the amazingdecision to sign goalie Rick Dipietro to a 15-year, $67.5 million deal (tied for the longest in hockey history).
While we may be trolling the depths of the Eastern Conference once again.. (sigh)… I believe the future is bright. GM Garth Snow has, unlike a certain Toronto GM, kept his 1st round draft pick for the upcoming NHL draft (I’ve dreamed on more than 1 occasion of Rangers Captain Gabriel Landeskog donning the Blue and Orange) to add yet another talented, highly-touted youngster to a group that includes John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, Calvin de Haan, Nino Niederreiter, and Brock Nelson. A great young core, on paper at least. Throw in other youngsters like Travis Harmonic, Andrew MacDonald, and Michael Grabner (who won the Fastest Skater Event at this year’s NHL All-Star Game) and things don’t look so bad.
Now, if the Islanders could just get a goalie….