A “gong show” is the 1999-2000 Islanders as the only team in professional sports travelling to games on commercial flights. It is the travel guy getting to Laguardia two hours before the team bus arrives so he can beg for emergency row seats for what was the worst and the tallest team in hockey.
Oh, you should have been there to see the seating arrangements: 6-7 Mathieu Biron, really sweet senior citizen, 6-9 Zdeno Chara…tallest-ever NHL goalie Steve Valiquette, serious businesswoman hoping to nap, 6-6 Eric Cairns.
A gong show is your team’s head coach, the man you count on for leadership more than any other, whining on and off the record to sportswriters whose names he doesn’t know about the pettiest of details on the day of a game. It is the same head coach creating lies about some of his own players.
A gong show is June 24, 2000.
A gong show is the day Neil Smith was hired, fired and about 33 of the 38 days in-between.
A gong show is a team dinner at John Spano’s house and thinking it’s a nice place, but for a billionaire’s it’s surprisingly just as cozy as Lappy Lapointe’s in Hicksville.
The Islanders have produced as many gong shows as Chuck Barris, we get that. My pal Adam Proteau of The Hockey News used the term yesterday to describe the current version of the Islanders. When you’re in Ontario and not around the team, it’s easy to go with the tried and false formula.
The Times dispatched Dave Caldwell to the Coliseum for a story he’s already written a few times about the Islanders, Blackhawks and other teams. From the Times, one would have hoped for a discussion of the franchise’s glaring need for a centerpiece young star and an interview with someone at the Town of Hempstead. Instead, we got (yawn) another “Glory Days” headline, (yawn) more on the DiPietro contract and (excuse me?) the line, “It was not supposed to be this way.” What, did Islanders Illustrated pick the boys to win the Cup?
Best of all, we got quotes from a fan in the stands wondering why Charles Wang – who’s lost about $200 million in eight years trying to keep the franchise afloat – spends money on Lighthouse ads instead of pumping more than an additional $43 million into a rebuilding team. Oy.
This is a hurtin’ team right now. This is a bad team right now. This is a team that’s 10-18-3 in a league where there’s only six teams under .500.
It’s also a franchise that’s finally trying to build a team the right way. It’s a group of players working together through a soul-sucking stretch – not against each other, as witnessed a few times. It’s a team whose coach has a vision (and a clue), whose GM has a plan and whose owner is working on a new facility so he can save the hockey team from going to Kansas City. It’s a franchise 3/8ths closer to landing a centerpiece young star and maybe, just maybe, six months away from getting a shovel in Nassau ground. Whether it all works out in the next couple of years, no one can say at this point.
But I do know a gong show when I see one. Anyone can pile on at 10-18-3. After a while, it becomes a sport for writers (and some fans) taking the easy route.
This is not your older brother’s Islanders gong show. This is simply a bad sports team, working on a plan to get better. They’re downright normal.
ETC: Okposo and Comrie off IR, Sillinger back on it. No returns to Bridgeport yet. Everyone was on the flight to Minnesota.