On September 12, 2013, the New York Islanders traveled to Barclays Center aboard the Long Island Rail Road. The Islanders are slated to begin playing at the Barclays Center, located in downtown Brooklyn directly across the street from the LIRR’s hub at Atlantic Terminal, beginning in 2015. Photo credit to MTA Long Island Rail Road/Flickr.
By Nick Kalantzopoulos
The New York Islanders’ final season in Long Island has been a topsy-turvy one, and it seems only fitting coming from a whirlwind of a franchise.
The hockey team will be moving to the Barclays Center in the fall 2015 to begin a new era as the second National Hockey League team in the five boroughs. Its residency in the famed Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum began in 1972, the year of the franchise’s inception. Shortly after, they began to see unparalleled success.
Eight years after joining the NHL, with great assistance from William Shea — who helped bring the National League Baseball back to New York City with the New York Mets — and his staff, the Islanders were given Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time. This first championship marked a true shift in fan allegiance in New York, and for the next three seasons, newly formed Islander supporters had plenty to cheer for.
Led by homegrown players such as winger John Tonelli and Bryan Trottier, who won the Conn Smyth Trophy as the team’s MVP during their 1979-1980 playoff run, as well as key trade acquisitions such as Butch Goring, who won the award the following year, the New York Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, and appeared in a fifth the following year. They were ultimately dethroned in the 1984 finals by the Edmonton Oilers, who were led by Mark Messier and the great Wayne Gretzky.
This dynastic run by the New York Islanders was followed by a regular spot in the NHL playoffs for the rest of the decade, however the 1982-1983 season was the last time the Islanders were at the pinnacle of their sport. They achieved some playoff success in the 1990s, with note-worthy players such as centre Ray Ferraro and Pierre Turgeon, and goalie Glenn Healy, who led them to the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, or as it was then known as the Prince of Wales Conference Finals. The Islanders have not won a playoff series since.
The lack of postseason success since the 1990s did not leave the New York Islanders without drama. The team tried to change their logo before the 1995-1996 season, and immediately changed back to its old one after disdain from its fans. The team was then sold to Dallas businessman John Spano in 1996, only to find out that Spano deliberately misled the NHL about his net worth. The team went on to be sold instead to Howard Milstein and Steven Gluckstern.
The Islanders were sold once again in the year 2000 to Computer Associates executives Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, for $187.5 million. They went on to return to the playoffs in 2002, but lost in the first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a grueling seven-game-series.
In 2006, the Islanders broke all kinds of records with a monumental contract given to their goalie at the time, Rick DiPietro. The deal was for 15 years, and $67.5 million. When it comes to the four major American sports, only NBA player Magic Johnson had ever signed a contract for such a long period of time. Eventually, after injuries and ineffectiveness, DiPietro was bought out of his contract in 2013.
The drought of playoff success has however given them a plethora of youthful talent, led by their current captain John Tavares. Elected to the NHL All-Star Game at the age of 21, the centre brought the Islanders back to the playoffs in the 2012-13 season. The Islanders lost in the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but fans were given an early glimpse of what was to come.
As of Thursday, March 12, the Islanders had 90 points, and were tied for third in the Eastern Conference, trailing the league-leading New York Rangers by a point. The rebuilding stage has ended and it seems to fans of New York hockey that the new-look Islanders are here to stay. The old fans are coming back, and the team is gaining new ones as well.
With the upcoming transition to Brooklyn, it may end up being the perfect time for the New York Islanders to once again be the talk of the town. But, it must be their play that does the talking.