An Open Letter to New York Islanders’ Fans

Cup'pa JoeDear Isles’ Fans:

Welcome to the rescue dinghy. Really it’s astounding what securing a no. 1 overall draft pick can do to assuage your agony. And not just any no.1 overall but a special player, a buzz youngster, like the one you secured Friday night in Montreal in John Tavares.

It’s not that today you’ve necessarily forgotten all that has ailed your team in recent years, which has been voluminous and grotesque. Additionally, we don’t have a crystal ball, and so we don’t yet know what John Tavares ultimately is going to do for your beleaguered franchise, but we do know that he’s been the prospect apple of everybody’s eye ever since he was the youngest player ever drafted into the Ontario Hockey League in 2005. Only Bobby Orr entered the OHL at a younger age. Talk about good company. Now Tavares is yours. Congratulations. This is a time for dreaming large.

This isn’t a time for fretting over how successful Tavares will or won’t be as an NHL rookie in 2009-10. Instead, spend the rest of this summer as we in Washington did in the summer of 2004: believing, rightly it turns out, that the black storm clouds of so many torture years past were finally beginning to part, thanks to the fortuitous arrival of a single ping pong ball. When fans of division rival teams this summer ridicule you for your team’s recent standings finishes, nod and smile and keep silent, and take it, knowing that they’re getting in final parting shots. John Tavares is going to be making an impact in your team’s sweater long after Chris Pronger had departed Philadelphia.     

I blog today to impart to you this undeniable truth: the worst is behind you. This doesn’t mean that next season is going to be hunky-dorey for you. In fact, odds are, you’re in for another year of struggle and most often winter evenings of discouraging defeat. That’s part of the rebuilding bargain. It’s important to know that going in. But the thinking here is that within the setbacks you’ll see what we in D.C. did five years ago — the jaw-dropping promise of better days to come, and even a handful of victorious evenings no conventional wisdom forecasted. Most often those will be led by your new wunderkid. 

More caution: while Friday night was an evening of appropriate reverie for you, at this moment we need to be frank about your standing: it isn’t what it what it should be. We don’t yet know that your team’s scouts can do what Washington’s have over the past five years: supplement a franchise-altering prodigy with much-needed reinforcements all about the lineup, with savvy and unlikely impact talent acquisition in portions of the draft that don’t typically deliver it.

Additionally, the Capitals had a distinct advantage over your Islanders in terms of when their savior arrived here, as Washington’s roster tear-down had already been undertaken by management. Still, it can’t be overstated what Friday night especially and this weekend more generally represented for your franchise. Like millions of others, I saw the TSN television cameras pan in on your rink Friday night as upwards of 10,000 in white, orange and blue frenzy-ushered in a new era.    

Allow me to share with you a modest anecdote applicable I think to your situation in the summer of 2009. In September 2005 the Washington Capitals hosted a meet-n-greet for season ticket holders with Capitals’ players poised to begin training camp. This took place at a shopping mall sports bar in Arlington, Va., named Bailey’s. The Caps then were not yet moved into their new training and practice facility across the street from the bar, atop a parking garage, but they wanted loyal ticket purchasers to meet up close and personal the icon they believed would lead them to prosperity, at their future home. I was in Bailey’s that night, and I watched some 25 Capitals’ players file through the bar to a private reception in the back of the bar with the season ticket holders. I remember thinking then that though the immediate future for the Caps was certifiably cluttered with losses, in that offseason moment I was witnessing the marching of a new guard of puck in my hometown. You on Long Island will almost certainly have a comparable gathering for loyal supporters this summer. Savor it.

Turns out, I was spot on in my September 2005 thinking. It was a fairly empty rink the Caps played in during that 2005-06 season, but just two seasons later our guys were walking out from their dressing room into a cauldron of red-clad euphoria acknowledged around the league as the most inhospitable of environments for visiting teams, anywhere in the league. I know you guys badly need a new rink on Long Island; I think John Tavares will help deliver it.         

Lastly, please beat Pittsburgh.      

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11 Responses to An Open Letter to New York Islanders’ Fans

  1. Kinneret says:

    Loved this. Especially the last line.

  2. amberlynne says:

    Lastly, please beat Pittsburgh.
    AMEN!

  3. CapsFan1975 says:

    I loved that last line also.
    Will I be back to hating the Islanders like I did in the late 1970’s?
    I recall a similar story involving my kids’ swim league. There was a team in our league who was a very bad team but who had spirit. Suddenly, a family with amazing talent joined that team. They had a son and a daughter. The team rose to mediocrity when they showed up. Then, they became champions for a couple years and looked really good. (I did not like the team as champions but liked the family and wished they had been part of our team.) Years passed. The team is back to being bad. Ironic note: the boy in that family was born 4 days before John Tavares!

  4. DCPensFan says:

    Come on pucks — i know you really don’t want to outsource the job the Caps seem unable to do to long island. you don’t want to go around Pittsburgh. you want to go through them.

  5. smiltondiago says:

    Snow could have offered 5 picks to Tampa for VICTOR HEDMAN,at the # 2 spot, . Thats what he did, paid 5 picks. He went from pick # 26 to # 16 at a cost of 2 picks. Then he trades # 16 for the #12 pick for 3 more picks. ???? for de haan… I am disgusted with the miss-management of this organization. Snow gets big Kudo’s for his first round pick that my grandmother could have made, pats on the back all around. Then fails miserably afterward. I see organizations like Detroit and Boston to name 2, that outshine the Islanders by miles and it really saddens me. Its amazing how inept snow is.

  6. REALITY says:

    Ya…”please beat Pittsburgh”…since the Cap’s self-centered showboat couldn’t get the job done…again

  7. Penguin Pete says:

    great article and nice jab at the end, well played!
    curious as to how caps fans feel about the (i think so, anyway) moronic comments about the pens during the finals (especially canes and wings fans), that is, “if we had the top picks in the draft, we’d be good too.”
    you’re article is a great description of what the draft is all about, suffering through a bad year, or 4, to have the promise and excitement of a young player join your team via the draft.
    would fans rather see teams built the same way the rangers do?

  8. pucksandbooks says:

    I confess that when I saw Snow make the move from 16 to 12 after already having secured Tavares, I thought he was gonna grab John Moore — a dynamic-skating puck-rusher to go with the dynamic scoring JT. I’ll keep an open mind on de haan, but it sure seemed like a yawner selection to these puckhead eyes.
    PenguinP- I’m with you on team building through the draft. The Flyers’ behavior under Holmgren seems to suggest their emulating the Rags. I’m of the opinion that while Pronger is still an impact Dman, he’s on the back nine of his career, and those all those young assets they parted with will be making an impact in the league long after he’s gone — and that Philly son’t have closed the gap with the Pens so long as it’s goalie-by-journeyman-committee there.

  9. NIKALE1 says:

    Anyway, they have to try to dig NYI out from this pile of garbage!
    I am here: HOCKEY OBSERVER

  10. dmg says:

    Yeah, that piece of crap and his eight goals and six points in seven games really blew this one!

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