Before the Islanders’ fisherman logo was made public, I brought a copy of it to my father for an advance view. At the time, my dad was in the cardiac unit of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.
Said one of my colleagues, “When you visit a loved one in the hospital, the visit’s supposed to make them feel better.”
The day after the logo and new uniforms were unveiled, I figured I’d do my part as an employee. Before leaving for the Jones Beach Boardwalk with my wife, I bravely placed a new Islanders cap on my head.
Never felt so self-conscious in my life, and this is when I had a full head of hair. One lady looked at me with complete disdain – you’d think she knew I worked for the team. One guy started ranting about its sheer awfulness loud enough so I could hear. People were staring at the top of my head as if the cap said, “I’m with Stupid.” Of course, it was my wife who was with Stupid.
Yup, when some rocket scientist had the bright idea to mess with the Islanders logo, it was an especially dopey time to be around the organization. It didn’t matter what the new logo was; it just happened to be a fisherman because said rocket scientist insisted the map of Long Island with the stick and the puck had to be replaced by something animated.. You know – like a Tiger, a Lion, a Panther.
Yeah, like a Yankee, a Red Wing or a Canadien.
The idea of a new Islanders logo was immediately lost with the thought, “Hey, we should change the logo”! It could have been the coolest, most dynamic logo in the history of sports, and it still would have been a preposterous notion. And that’s without even getting into the nauseating wave at the bottom of the jerseys. Darius Kasparaitis and Travis Green were two of the lucky ones around to model it. When Darius saw the jersey, his reaction went something like this:
“Oh ma Gahd, we’re going to look like ____________’in _____________________es.”
Before the press conference, the Daily News obtained a bootlegged copy of the logo. (Never thought about it at the time, but it’s not outlandish to think maybe a colleague sent it to them, hoping the backlash could kill the project…brilliant!). The News took the fisherman, placed it on a shot of Denis Potvin wearing the classic Islanders sweater, and the damage was done.
A top executive no longer with the Islanders jumped ship. Off-the-record but in earshot of a lot of people, he told Colin Stephenson, then of the Daily News, “I just want you to know that I think it’s awful. I had nothing to do with it.” For this man, we were all in it together – win or tie. Once we witnessed his mutiny, it was all over.
We hadn’t even made it to the press conference, and a colleague and I were already planning our approach to ownership about a transition back to the old logo.
For the press conference, baymen were honored for their work on the East End. At that point, the response to the Daily News story confirmed what we already knew: the new uni was going to be hated by more than 99% of the fan base. So a desperate, transparent effort was made to remind people that the Islanders were honoring Long Island’s culture.
Holy mackerel, even the baymen acted like they wanted no part of it.
We were told by ownership that a call was made to Billy Joel, since he did a lot of awareness initiatives for the plight of the baymen and had a hit with “The Downeaster Alexa.” Displaying his greatest bit of show-biz savvy prior to his selfless invitation to have Paul McCartney close Shea, Billy passed. No doubt even the Piano Man thought the whole enterprise was, um, shameless.
I’m certainly ashamed of my bit part in this Geek tragedy. I wrote a column for the team publication on all the reasons people should give it a chance. It was my clever way of staying away from all the reasons it made me and just about everyone else sick. I didn’t write that it was amazing or that fans should line up to buy it. Imagine that: the best I could do was write why people should give it some time. You know you’re in for a disaster when that’s all you got.
Although I did not create the fisherman logo or had any say in the matter, I’ll always know I didn’t at least try to fight it as hard as I could. That embarrasses me more than anything.
The Islanders are one of the fortunate franchises in major team sports. They wore a classic uniform and by just their third season were already making history by stunning their crosstown rivals in one series and coming back from 3-0 down in another.
In only their eighth season of existence, the Islanders won the first of four Stanley Cups in that jersey.
Mike Bossy scored 50 goals in 50 games in that jersey.
Pat LaFontaine scored a Game 7 overtime goal at two in the morning on Easter in that jersey.
Hall of Fame players played their entire careers in that jersey.
Ray Ferraro and David Volek beat Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in that jersey.
Nothing has been won since they stopped wearing that jersey. Hmm…
There is no reason to wear anything else.