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Pride, Anxiety, Relief

Isles Emotions, Pt. II: Not exactly Chicken Soup for the Isles’ fan’s soul, but close


Throughout this historic season in Uniondale, I’ll be jotting down my emotions during every game I attend. While others in the press box are typing who scored and how the play transpired, I’ll be adding slightly more emotional depth to specific things happening during the game.

The second installment is from the Islanders’ 3-2 victory over Chicago on Dec. 13:
I experienced the same emotional output as last time, the one where I was tearing up as the team hit the ice, only this time Islanders legend Clark Gillies greeted the men as they touched blade to ice.

Gillies dropped the ceremonial first puck to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and Islanders’ captain John Tavares. Gillies was wearing his white home captain’s jersey as well. It was perfect. I was thrilled to attend this game since I missed the other legends events this season so far.

After a brief sluggish start to the game, Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak kept the Isles alive early. He was making save after save, on breakaways, fast breaks and everything in between. It was an instant reminder of how great the acquisition of Halak was this off-season. It has proved to be one of the best moves General Manager Garth Snow has made in recent years.

I quickly disregarded the first 10 minutes of play and immediately began to see the Islanders hockey that we’ve become accustomed to this year. They looked good, very good. And that’s without some of their starting defensemen on the ice.

Aside from the three-game skid prior to this game against the Blackhawks, the Isles have been one of the hottest teams in the league. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

They’re equally as entertaining to watch as they are to write about and root for.
It was rewarding to see two dominant teams play very aggressively on both sides of the puck.

The Islanders did not allow a shot for the first 9 minutes of the second period. They were out skating, out shooting, out poke checking, and out hustling the Blackhawks in every aspect of the game. This was the type of hockey I had been waiting to see in this building basically forever.
“They were a dangerous team,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville after the game. “They lost a couple tough games in a row, you know they’re going to be excited. Give them credit.”

Of course the Blackhawks scored first, on just their second shot of the period with 5:35 left in the stanza. I know that feeling all too well. Just when you think they’re playing well, the other team gets a good break and scores.

Cal Clutterbuck, however, scored a goal immediately off the next faceoff. He intercepted a clearing attempt from Chicago, shot and scored and the old barn erupted. Like I said, not the Islanders you’re used to.

It’s sickening how many fans cheered when the Blackhawks scored their second goal of the game. There were a lot of red jerseys visible at the game. I wonder if they’re actual fans, or just frontrunners, or Rangers fans in drag. Are they Chicago transplants who now live in New York City? I do know a ton of people who’ve migrated here from Chicago, so that does seem like a viable option. But, still, too many.

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 Emotions: Goose Bumps, Tears and Victory

Not exactly Chicken Soup for the Isles’ fan’s soul, but close


You can go to any sporting event and feel something inside you. You may cry, get angry, smile, cheer and let out your inner kid. It happens to everyone. Even if you don’t like sports you find yourself emitting some kind of feeling for the games and players, maybe even the venue.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to cover the final season for the Islanders at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. I’m not going to write game stories. I’m not going to get fan reactions. I’m not going to record major milestones. You can get that anywhere else.

For me, it’s the feelings I’ll generate throughout the season that will mean the most. The feelings based on the sounds, the sights, the moans, the groans, the player interaction, the laughs, the jeers, and everything in between. It’s how I’ll remember the Coliseum during its final curtain call.

Throughout this historic season in Uniondale, I’ll be jotting down my emotions during every game I attend. While others in the press box are typing who scored and how the play transpired, I’ll be adding slightly more emotional depth to specific things happening during the game.

I took my first shot at this during a 6-0 victory against Colorado on November 11. Here are my notes:

First game of the season for me. Very cognizant of taking in every moment and experience I can at the Coliseum. I walked the corridor before the game as I always do to start a season. The colors are so vibrant in the halls. The bright orange with the white and blue accented stripes are brilliant. Seriously, who has better colors?

The team skated out onto the ice, not unlike any regular game, but I was immediately emotional. I mean goose bumps and tears to my eyes. I could see and feel my childhood flashing before my eyes. It had something to do with the music, which was actually more on the sad side. Historic tones, if that makes sense. I’ve been coming to Islanders games for 23 years – since my dad and uncle took me to my first game in 1991 – it was against the Flyers and we sat somewhere near section 335. It all just hit me though as the team came out. They’re only going to come out of that tunnel so much more.

At 18:27 the Isles scored their first goal of the game off a shot from Nick Leddy, a new player acquired in a trade from Chicago, who will learn all about the noise that can be generated in the old barn. Get ready, Nick, it’s glorious. They took immediate control. Then it happened again at 14:39 – as I wrote this – the Islanders went up 2-0 on a power play goal by Anders Lee.

New to the Coliseum is the “yes, yes, yes” chant after a goal. I’m on the fence about this. It adds nothing to the Coliseum’s legacy or lore, but it caught on pretty quickly. It’s inspired by WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan’s “Yes! Movement”. Whatever makes the fans happy, I guess.

I have this perception that the Islanders are not supposed to be this good. My mind is trying to tell me this is a different team in Islanders jerseys. They’re fast, physical, the goalie is good, they can score, they have stars, and they are a real team with a destiny for a change. But it’s early yet in the season and a lot can happen.

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 on Point with “Tradition on Ice” Sales

Coliseum team store packed with commemorative memorabilia


Over the summer, the New York Islanders released a special “Tradition on Ice” logo to commemorate the final season of play at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Aside from some marketing campaigns that work well with the “Tradition on Ice” slogan, I wasn’t sure how the team would capitalize on the logo. I took a trip to the team store at the Coliseum the day prior to Opening Night and was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of assortment available.

You can find everything from photos and pucks to pennants and apparel. There really isn’t much you’d hope for after a visit to the store. The sales staff did a solid job in creating sellable items with the new commemorative logo.

For many, this final season at the Coliseum seems like a hockey funeral. Some are completely against the logo and commemorating such a horrible point in franchise history. But a logo is a logo and it honors the history and tradition of the Coliseum. You can’t argue that.

Among the top items available for sale at the team store (while supplies last, of course):
*Canvas print, in white or blue, featuring the Coliseum “Tradition on Ice” logo
*Lineage banners, showing all of the franchise anniversary logos
*Apparel, including special hats, sweatshirts and tee shirts, some from ’47 Brand
*Ticket stub holders to collect as many tickets from the final season as you can
*Mini copies of retired jerseys and championship banners

If you’re looking to just purchase the patch that the players are wearing on their jerseys, you’re not going to be happy. According to members of the store sales staff, you can only get the patch on a jersey, not by itself.

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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‘Big Shot’ Nets Sports Emmy

Isles fan, director Kevin Connolly takes home hardware


emmy
Image: Instagram account of Doug Ellin



If you haven’t seen the Islanders documentary “Big Shot,” an ESPN 30-for-30 film, you should.

Directed, written, narrated and produced by Long Island native and Islanders fan Kevin Connolly, the film was recently honored with an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Sports Documentary Series.”

The film breaks down the misguided and criminally stirred ownership stint by John Spano. It’ll make you laugh at just how bizarre the time period was in franchise history. It’s eye-opening, interesting and engaging for hockey fans.

VIDEO: Watch the documentary and highlights

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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The Beginning of the End

Isles set to kick off final season at Coliseum


isles blog



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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