…Not in a “YAY, ISLANDERS!” way, more of a “Well, good for them” sort of way.
Why this is notable is going to take some explaining for many of you, especially if you’ve never known the Islanders to be anything other than a perpetually struggling team that hasn’t made it past the opening round of the playoffs in over twenty years.
I grew up on Long Island and my teen years more or less coincided with the Islanders’ Stanley Cup years. Islander fans were, to be blunt, unbearable in the way that people are when they hook up with a team that essentially gets them from zero to sixty in 3 seconds. All too often, they had that smug incredulity towards anyone who was not walking around the high school hallway in a blue and orange hockey jersey, stopping just short of saying “Why the hell would anybody NOT be an Islander fan?!?!?”
And, of course, being in New York, fans of one team do not pat other fans sympathetically on the back and say “It’s OK, dude, you’ll get there some day”. No, Rangers fans were mocked with chants of “NINE-teen FOUR-teeeee”, referencing the year that (at the time) had been the long-distant last time the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Even though I wasn’t a Rangers fan, my father and brother were, so I didn’t take kindly to any Ranger abuse.
Nope, Islander fans in my school were an arrogant, loathsome bunch, and my disdain for them spread to the team. The more success the Islanders had, the more they were the “[BLEEP]ing Islanders”.
I left Long Island twenty years ago. Distance, the Islanders lack of success over that period, plus the awful “Gorton’s Fisherman” jerseys they wore in the late 1990’s took a lot of the steam out of my disdain. The Islanders went from an object of scorn to, as Gotye sang several years ago, “Just somebody that I used to know”.
So now the Islanders are in their last season on Long Island before their move to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. They’ve already played their final regular season game and are playing in the opening round against the Capitals. I’ll admit I find it kind of sad. Like it or not, it was part of my past… and I think about those two friends-of-friends who wore jerseys of Clark Gilles and Denis Potvin, how are they handling this? Did they maintain their loyalty to the Islanders? Have they moved elsewhere and adopted other teams?
People who are unfamiliar with the greater New York area might be thinking “Jeez, it’s just 25 miles, it’s not like they’re moving to Kansas City or anything”, but going from suburban Long Island to Brooklyn is a major change both culturally and logistically. I would imagine that most Long Islanders would not even think of driving to an Islanders game, you’d have to take the train in, and if you’re taking that train, that may as well be in “The City” (i.e. Manhattan). A big part of the appeal of the Islanders was that it was suburban Long Island’s own team… but now they’ll be just another City team.
So even though I used to be a Capitals fan (emphasis on “used to be”), I wouldn’t be terribly upset if the Islanders beat them in the first round. After that, we’ll see… My goodwill has it’s limits and the hockey team in blue and orange will always be the [BLEEP]ing Islanders to me.