[I exchanged a few emails this week with my friend Janice Arbour. Until a year ago, Janice worked at NHL Productions for a long time. I asked Janice for her thoughts on the Islanders possibly leaving Nassau County. The daughter of Hall of Fame coach and man Al Arbour was gracious enough to write the following for the readers of Point Blank…CB]
I have been linked to the New York Islanders since we both came into existence in 1972. Granted, I missed out on that first year since I was living in St Louis, Missouri and apparently crying up a storm whenever my Mom left the room. Everything changed in 1973 when my father took the head coaching job of the New York Islanders and my mother was forced to move 4 children to a place she had never seen and knew nothing about.
Very quickly the Nassau Coliseum became our second home; in fact, they should have just delivered our mail to section 224 row C, seats 1 thru 4. It truly felt like a home not because we were there so often, but because of the people who came into the building.
Whether it was an usher, a boisterous Hofstra student, a landscaper, a powerful lawyer, we all came together to cheer for the one professional team that has the island stitched into their emblem for the world to see (I believe I have been Jedi mind-tricked to forget the fishsticks logo fiasco, so let’s not go there). My family may have not known one thing about Long Island before we got there but we are who we are today because of Long Island.
Yes, winning championships tends to bring out the best in everybody and for a long stretch of time the Islanders won every single year, or so it seemed to a 10-year old girl who never missed a minute of Islanders action. We all have received one of those “You know you grew up in Long Island if…” joke emails, and sure enough roughly 8 of those points involved the Islanders of that era.
The Islanders are not Long Island because they won four Stanley Cups and were home to numerous Hall of Famers. They are Long Island because it was never about a corporate fan base or glitzy stars. The 2002 playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs is a perfect example. The Leafs said they were scared sitting in the locker room because the building was so loud and shaking. And who did fans cheer loudest for? Steve Webb, a fourth liner who sacrificed his body to help the team win.
Another recent magical night was when my father was asked back to coach his 1500th game. The number didn’t mean anything to my father because he was never a stats guy but a team-first guy. However, the love he and my entire family felt that night from Islander fans was beyond description. Every person in the arena gave a Great Grandfather (literally) the chance to show the young ones that the old guy still could pull off a comeback.
The Islanders are about team, hard work, family, and striving to do the best with what you have.
Let’s face it, right now there are many problems that are bigger than where a sports team will call home but there is no going back. You take the team away and a good portion of Long Island history and its future will be ripped away.
Yes, the team has struggled on the ice but look no further than the current Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins for how quickly things can turn around. They went from leaving town to hoisting Lord Stanley within a matter of years.
Who knows if Okposo, Tavares, Bailey and de Haan will become as synonymous with Long Island as Bossy, Gillies, Trottier, Potvin and Co., but I know that my nieces and nephews and many other young fans already think the world of them and hope they can put the Islanders back on the map. Let’s just pray that when they do reach those heights the map doesn’t have a picture of some other state or region. Instead, it must be a map of the only place the Islanders should call home.