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The Beginning of the End

Isles set to kick off final season at Coliseum


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Perhaps the greatest line written about the Islanders pre-season game against the Devils in Brooklyn was from the Isles Point Blank blog on SNY: “After two trips to the Barclays Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano wasn’t ready to say the building felt like home.”

“It’s a great venue,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano told Point Blank. “There’s no question it’s a beautiful place. We know we’re going to be here at a certain point, but it was good to come. Preseason and now we have to focus on the Coliseum and our fans there.”
Barclays CEO Brett Yormark told Newsday that this year’s pre-season game felt like a dress rehearsal compared to the first go on ice in 2013.

“We’re that much closer to it being a reality and we’re trying to refine the experience for our fans,” he told Newsday.

There were between 11,000 and 12,000 fans in attendance, but not near the 15,000 full capacity the Barclays can hold. The Coliseum, if all goes right, should see more sellouts this season then usual, and possibly the most since the 1980s.

Isles Tidbits
—Former Isles goalie Rick DiPietro just grabbed himself a regular gig on ESPN Radio. He’ll join former Islanders beat writer Alan Hahn on Friday’s from 7-10 p.m. on air, according to Newsday’s Neil Best.

—The team has not yet updated its shop website with any “Farewell Coliseum” items. Check “Orange & Blue” sometime in October to see what the team is doing in the team shop at the building.

—It was announced that Denis Potvin’s mini locker will be available to fans who have full-season tickets. This is part of a season-long collection of locker stalls, which also include Billy Smith, Clark Gillies and Bobby Nystrom during the first half of the season. There will be others in the second half as well. Potvin will be on-hand at the Coliseum on Nov. 29 as the organization honors him.

Chris Vaccaro
Author: Chris Vaccaro
Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.

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Isles Offer Mini-Lockers For Promos


The Islanders recently announced they will give out mini-lockers as promotional items during the 2014-15 season. The lockers are a representation of the team’s final season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Billy Smith, Bobby Nystrom and Clark Gillies lockers will be released during the first half of the season. Expect all other players with retired numbers, as well as team captain John Tavares, to be released in the second half of the year.

Mini locker dates:
-Billy Smith, Nov. 22
-Bobby Nystrom, Dec. 6
-Clark Gillies, Dec. 13

One issue that popped up with this … Billy Smith’s locker has a regular player helmet and not a goalie mask. It’s all in the details! Let’s hope the team corrects this prior to the release in November.

The team said fans will be able to purchase merchandise that honors the history of Nassau Coliseum throughout the season.

Promo wish list
Some other items that would make sense as promos:
-Bobblehead of something historic that happened at the Coliseum (“The goal”, perhaps)
-Canvas art of a historic moment at the Coliseum
-Mini Coliseum statues (either in color or one metal tone)
-Pucks with the “Final Season” logo on them

Chris Vaccaro
Author: Chris Vaccaro
Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.

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An Isles Fan Not From Long Island


It’s possible that Islanders fans are all not from Long Island. Not individuals who moved from the area and not family members of former Long Island residents.

I never thought this was possible, but then I met an Islanders fan named Chris when I was on business in Seattle last week.

On a tour of Safeco Field, where the Mariners play, a gentleman saw my Sachem Football Long Island champions hat and immediately came over and asked if I was from the island and if I supported the New York Islanders.

We stayed talking for another five hours through the stadium tour and through a Seahawks pre-season game next door at CenturyLink field.

Chris is originally from Nova Scotia and most hockey fans from the east coast of Canada gravitate towards the Canadiens. Not Chris. He witnessed the Canadiens beat the Islanders two straight years in the semifinals in 1975-76 and 1976-77 and grew closer to the boys from Nassau than his country’s proudest franchise. He’s unique, no question.

The Islanders, who jumped onto the NHL scene in 1972, were an instant success. They made it to the semifinals of the playoffs four out of five seasons from 1974-1979 and eventually won four out of five Stanley Cup Finals from 1979-1984.

It was a very impressionable and exciting time to be an Islanders fan and Chris bought in.
Chris, who was on a road trip of the northwestern states in America, lives in Alberta now.

He has never taken a trip to Long Island or visited a home game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. That will change this year.

With the franchise moving to Brooklyn after this season, Chris vowed to make a trip to the hallowed ground on Hempstead Turnpike and visit the building where Islanders greats made the franchise one of the most successful in hockey history.

He stays up to date on the franchise with the Internet and digital media and occasionally catches them on road games in Canada.

Nothing, however, will be as special as seeing his favorite team in their friendly confines in the final year of its existence. Stay tuned for another blog about his reaction to the Coliseum after he visits this season.

Chris Vaccaro
Author: Chris Vaccaro
Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.

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Isles Unveil Coliseum Logo


The New York Islanders officially unveiled the logo they’ll use to commemorate the final season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The team has not released specific plans about the logo, but you can expect this to be a shoulder patch on home jerseys, possibly etched on the ice, and, of course, available on items in the team store.

The logo depicts the Coliseum with four Stanley Cups. It says, “Tradition on Ice” above the building and hardware.

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Perhaps the weakest part of the logo is the banner at the bottom that says, “43 years of history.” Forty-three is such an unattractive number. It may have been more useful to put “1972-2015” at the bottom. Either way, it’s a logo depicting a funeral for a building that has certainly seen its better days.

The real thing to keep an eye on is just how much the organization uses the logo.

Will they offer a full store worth of items? Pucks, hats, jackets, patches, shirts? Will they make special signage for around the Coliseum with it? The season begins in less than two months, so we’ll see soon enough.

Chris Vaccaro
Author: Chris Vaccaro
Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.

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Ranking the off-season transactions


Get ready, Islanders fans, because the final season at the Coliseum is coming. This is an important season for your Orange & Blue, whether you like it or not. Don’t expect a Stanley Cup, but if the hockey gods are listening, a post-season appearance with one last go in the old barn would be pretty special.

It hasn’t been a quiet off-season by any means. Rumor after rumor has surfaced about Garth Snow offering contracts to just about every big name free agent on the market. Each of those free agents declined the offers, of course.

But Snow has brought in some depth, and filled some core areas heading into the 2014-2015 campaign.

The top acquisitions of the Isles this off-season:

1. May 22, Isles ink Jaroslav Halak: After acquiring Halak from the Capitals for a fourth-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft, they signed the veteran goalie to a four-year deal three weeks later. This solidifies a major hole for the franchise. Evgeni Nabokov was good during his brief stint, but Halak adds a younger and stronger option. His No. 41 Islanders jerseys are already on sale (see photo above).

2. July 2, Isles ink Mikhail Grabovski: Like Halak, Grabovski brings a proven record and he signed a four-year deal. He’s only 30 and has 425 career NHL games under his belt. Last season he scored 35 points in just 58 games with Washington. In 2010-2011, he had 29 goals and 58 points for Toronto.

3. July 2, Isles ink Nikolai Kulemin: This signing is a lot like Grabovski. Kulemin adds depth of a similar proportion. An Olympian for Team Russia, he has played in 421 career NHL games and is a one-time 30-goal scorer for Toronto (2010-2011). He played the last six seasons in Toronto and scored 20 points.

4. July 1, Isles ink T.J. Brennan: They didn’t get an NHL veteran as a defenseman, but they did get a highly touted prospect. T.J. Brennan won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defenseman in the American Hockey League last season, while with Toronto’s affiliate. He scored 25 goals and had 72 assists in the minors. The upside is huge.

5. July 1, Isles ink Cory Conacher: He had 26 points last season with Ottawa and Buffalo. The interesting note about Conacher is that he was the MVP of the AHL in 2011-2012 with Norfolk. Again, this is more of an upside move and not someone who is proven.

6. July 1, Isles ink Chad Johnson: Halak’s backup is very formidable. He was 17-4-3 last season in 27 games with Boston. He ranked sixth in the NHL last year in both goals against average and save percentage.

I know what you’re going to say. Who are these guys? Besides Halak, not many jump off the page at you. It’s depth, but not the star-studded veteran brand you’d like.
I’m beginning to come around to the thought that Snow is doing all he can with what he has. He offers contracts. He went after big names – Vanek, anyone – and was able to sign pieces that could pay off, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Chris Vaccaro
Author: Chris Vaccaro
Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.

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