The Long Islanders
I’ve come to a realization. Since nobody is actually reading this, well, I can basically write whatever I want. Let’s travel, to Downstate New York.
Any poor misguided souls who’ve found there way here are probably wondering, where the hell is Downstate New York? Simple. It’s the region of New York downstate from upstate. Like southern North Dakota. Or traveling in parts of eastern West Virginia. Get it?
Growing up on Long Island, I know Downstate very well. One of the sadder entities is the New York Islanders. As we near the culmination of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s only right for a hockey blog.
The New York Islanders stink. Stink so bad, I can smell them 200 miles upstate. I’m not the only one saying that. NHL gate receipts from this season show the Islanders were the worst drawing team in the National Hockey League. This is a team that averaged 2,400 less fans per home game than the team that just moved to Winnipeg. Think about that. The Islanders were a worse draw than the Atlanta Thrashers (when you’re 30th out of 30 teams, you’re looking up at everyone).
Put it this way: The Islanders average attendance of 11,059 fans per game was more than 6,000 fans behind the league average for attendance. The team is a sinkhole.
When various websites consistently place your franchise in the bottom 5 of the league rankings for everything from value to fan base, something is wrong. When French Canadians ‘storm’ your arena and attempt a fan coup of the team, something is wrong. Yeah, that’s right….Quebecers from Nordiques Nation descended on Nassau Coliseum in a show of blind hockey devotion. Dislocated Canadian fans are better hockey fans than Islanders fans.
To be fair, dislocated Canadian hockey fans are probably more ardent than 85% of American hockey fans. Whatever that means. And the Isles, well, they are a team who traded Robert Luongo for an autograph from Randy Savage and three bags of potato chips (one was rumored to be salt and vinegar).
More cynical fans probably know the Islanders as the team who tried the Gorton’s Fisherman logo. Or worse, the team who signed an American goaltender for fifteen seasons.
I’m not ready to give up on the New York Islanders. Were they to actually leave, the only professional sports franchise left on the body of land dubbed Long Island would be the New York Mets. Long Islanders do not deserve that. In fact, I have a couple of ideas which might save the franchise. At least revitalize it. It revolves around the Kings Park Psychiatric Center and the Mayo Clinic.
Forget about Nassau Coliseum. Don’t forget about the ridiculous “Meet Me At The Lighthouse” ads, though. Pure gold, even to this day.
“Yeah, we’re gonna play it Long Island style.” I’ve yet to find someone to sufficiently explain ‘playing Long Island style’ being anything more than adultery via car date.
“Chill with a chili dog or go gourmet.” I’ll leave that one to the authority, Urban Dictionary.
I could go on. The comic tuning of the Meet Me At The Lighthouse vibrates at a similar pitch as my brain, what can I say? But I digress. The Lighthouse as a solution for the scatological nature of the Islanders franchise? Not so fast.
Don’t refurbish Nassau Coliseum. Don’t move the Islanders to Quebec or Thunder Bay or even Moose Knuckle. It is a point touched upon by Fox Business regarding the NHL’s move back north to Winnipeg:
Some believe the Atlanta move may also foreshadow a more widespread northern creep by the NHL out of struggling Sun Belt cities and back into small and medium-sized markets that truly love the sport.
So succinct. Which brings us to Kings Park. The Psyche Center has been closed for fifteen years now. It acts mostly as an artifact of the past, when the mentally ill were sequestered from the rest of the population. Before Reagan became Governor of California, eviscerated the mental health budget and unleashed a torrent of the mentally ill onto the streets and into prisons. Or so the legend goes.
The Kings Park Psychiatric Center is a place for bored teens to kick around, spray paint, maybe do drugs or whatever else tickles their fancy. It’s also conveniently (for our purposes) abandoned and fifty miles east of Manhattan. Maybe you see where I’m going with this? Billions of federal dollars pouring in as new roads are built adjoining the Long Island Expressway. A new facility on the north shore of Downstate New York, one which remakes the Islanders as a regional power.
Consider this: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum has already seen the seating capacity increased over 18,000 through the building’s history. Streamline. Build a nice, tidy, maybe even slightly small arena in Kings Park, around 13,500-14,000. Add the luxury boxes you cannot feasibly expect to cram into Nassau Coliseum. Rename the team the Long Islanders.
Instantly, the fan base would increase. Moving to Kings Park would give Suffolk County its first taste of pro sports, easily expanding the fan base. At the same time, moving out of the near vicinity of the Rangers and Devils would help in itself. Better to be Long Island’s premiere hockey team than the 3rd best hockey team in Downstate New York, right?
You may be asking, what does the Mayo Clinic have to do with aiding the poor, pathetic, New York Islanders. Simple. Trade Rick DiPietro to the Mayo Clinic for a stem cell procedure to be named. Can you imagine how much work Mayo would have with DiPietro on their roster? All while clearing $45 million of the Long Islanders books. Only in my dreams. Of Downstate New York.