Editor’s note! Vicky’s back for another insiders’ view of hockey happenings on Long Island. Take it away, Vicky!
So, do you want to know my take on the Islanders switching out THAT GAME [from February 11] against Pittsburgh in tomorrow’s viewing party for the less controversial game against Buffalo when Michael Grabner got a hat trick? OF COURSE YOU DO!
A little bit of background: So MSG (one of our broadcast affiliates in the tri-state area) has been airing games from the previous season all summer for the three teams it covers: Islanders, Devils and Rangers. The Islanders have taken this opportunity to host fan meet-ups on nights when the games are being shown. They advertise on twitter and facebook and I’m pretty sure the events are free, apart from buying food. And Friday’s is at Champions (the sports bar in the hotel next door to the Coliseum) and they have lava cake!
So the meet-ups are pretty popular. Fans get to watch an epic game from last season during the summer when they’re missing hockey, it gives them a chance to meet new Islanders fans via social media, and the Islanders raise money for their Children’s Foundation charity by doing auctions and raffles for team memorabilia. Matt Moulson (who I affectionately refer to as “Snark” because he loves chirping his teammates on twitter) even showed up to the last one, which was held at a pizzeria!
The big issue is on Friday, they were going to reair the game from February 11th against Pittsburgh. You know, the one that turned into FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHT NIGHT AT THE COLISEUM!
By the end of the game, I think both penalty boxes were crammed full and there was like no people on the benches. This is the game that will live in infamy because it made the NHL’s brass collectively crap their pants and condemn the Islanders for being brainless goons. Two Islanders were slapped with suspensions, the team was slapped with a $100,000 fine, and the team’s reputation also got slapped by like everyone who had to make a comment on it. The words “goons,” “classless,” “bush league,” and “trash” were flung around by fans from around the league, and even some Islanders fans were a little embarrassed at how their team behaved. The Penguins’ owner Mario Lemieux even weighed in, calling the game “embarrassing” and “unacceptable” and adding in that if this was the direction the league was heading in, he didn’t want to be involved anymore. Ouch.
So when word got out that the Islanders were hosting a viewing party with this as the main feature, the media grabbed hold of the news and RAN with it. Like, really ran with it. NHL reporters as far away as Denver and Los Angeles were commenting on it, and everyone really brought out the claws. Saying the Islanders were nuts, how disgraceful the game was. One of Pittsburgh’s beat reporters even took it a step further, comparing the game to Slap Shot and throwing in a little dig at the Islanders: “We get that there haven’t been a lot of highlight games involving the Islanders in recent seasons.”
(a la Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) Really? REALLY?! What do I always say…saying the Islanders are a crappy team is soooooooooooooooo 1998. Believe me, the Islanders of recent seasons have nothing on the Islanders from the late 90s. Now THAT was a painful time to be an Islanders fan. Ok, moving on…
The story got so blown out of proportion, the Islanders and MSG finally stepped in to announce they were switching the game. So now, fans will get to see the game from the following Sunday, against Buffalo, when Michael Grabner won the game with a hat trick. Still an important game, but I do not see what the big deal is with repeating the Pittsburgh game. I don’t, I just don’t. WHO CARES?! They’re reairing an important game from last season for fans’ enjoyment, that’s all. Everyone’s acting like the Islanders are challenging Pittsburgh to come and restage the game inside Champions. Which wouldn’t work anyway, because Champions isn’t huge and gets crowded awfully quickly.
If they think it’s the Islanders’ way of pointing and laughing at the Penguins, then fair enough, think that. But it really isn’t. I think the Islanders got the raw end of the deal in that game’s aftermath! Besides, MSG said they’re the ones who chose to re-air the game. The Islanders had no say until they stepped in and asked them to change it.
And you know what? That game was HUGE, apart from the huge brawls that kept happening. The Islanders scored nine goals in that game. NINE. I can’t even remember the last time we ever scored that high. Three players reachers the 20-goal mark in that game too. And as crazy as this sounds, I think that game meant a lot to Islanders fans, apart from watching each team beat the stuffing out of each other.
I (sadly) wasn’t at that game. My friend (the one who bought me the lava cake – we met online through hockey 10 years ago and we’re still close!) and I were at a sports bar/restaurant in Farmingdale, having dinner and cocktails to celebrate that I had just gotten hired at my new job (ironically, my parent company owns the Rangers). It was a Friday night, so the place was packed, and the Islanders game was playing on one of the many huge tv screens throughout the restaurant. And let me tell you…I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years now, and this was definitely the most epic game I’ve ever seen. Our table was right in front of one of the Islanders tvs and we were just blown away by everything. Everytime I looked up, another goal had been scored or there was another fight brewing. My friend went up to the bar to get another drink, then to the bathroom a little bit later, and when she came back, I had to tell her she missed another goal. Everyone there watching the game was enthralled and I can’t remember the last time I saw Islanders fans in euphoria like that.
My dad, meanwhile, WAS at the game with my uncle. My dad’s been going to Islanders games for more than 30 years (he was actually at the game in 1981 when Mike Bossy scored his 50 goals in 50 games! Which was a huge deal until Wayne Gretzky flattened that record a few seasons later), and he told me what I said before. This was the most exciting and epic Islanders game he had ever seen either. He said the Coliseum was going NUTS. After a really slow start to the season, and so many “close, but no cigar” seasons in recent past, having a game like this come along was amazing. Talk about boosting fan morale! Like I said, it wasn’t just fights! The Islanders were showing us that, yes, they CAN show up to a game and play like they mean it!
In conclusion, I think the media blew this story way out of proportion and it’s upsetting the Islanders had to cave because they were showing a repeat of a popular game at a fan meet-up. No bad intentions there at all!