Sunday, September 30, 2007


The predictions are out and, so far, the only major journalist boldly coming out and saying the Islanders will make the playoffs is...ta dah...Greg Logan, the only reporter actually on the team 24/7. A whole bunch of them have predicted the Islanders will be in the mix for the last two spots, but Logan is the only one going out on a limb.

The rest can say what they want. We saw what happened last year and we know where Carolina was picked the year they won the Cup. That's okay.

But what really drives me nuts are the reporters who are either not doing their homework or simply being lazy. Of all the prediction columns I've read this week, one word continued to pop up and make me shake my head.


As in, "the Islanders were raided in the free agent market."

Come on.

How could the Islanders have been raided when there was only one player (Ryan Smyth) they continued to negotiate with before and after midnight, July 1? Did I miss something? Were there reports of the Islanders sweating out 11th-hour negotiations with Jason Blake or Tom Poti or Viktor Kozlov or anyone else?

The Islanders were not raided. They just said goodbye to those guys, wished them well and turned their focus to other players. The Sabres, THEY were raided. (Nevertheless, Buffalo is still going to contend in the East. They are that deep).

Part of the perception problem is my fault. If I could do the days leading up to July 1 over again, I would have recommended that Garth publicly state he was still negotiating with Ryan's agent but the team was prepared to part ways with Blakey, Vik and the rest. I don't know if Garth would have agreed with the advice, but I should have pushed for it. Even after all these years, still learning on the job.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thanks to Neulion, Vasicek's family can watch him play tonight

I'm not even going to try and come off as some tech-savvy guy who is ahead of the curve when it comes to innovations. My 9-year old son was the one who turned me on to the iPod in January, and now I don't know how I lived life without it. When I decided I'd try to do my own blog, I had to ask my colleague Corey Witt and the amazing Islander fan and NYIslanders Country message board mod Nick D to get me started. And even with their help, as you can see I'm clueless. Even that old fart Neil Best in Newsday knows how to post photos and link stories.

But despite it all, I'm in awe at the impact my friends and colleagues at Neulion have made with internet television. Neulion is run by Nancy Li, their offices are across the street from the main NYI exec offices in Plainview and we're proud to all be part of the same extended Islanders family.

Nancy and her team brought Islanders TV into our lives last season and now, just one year later, it is the talk of the industry. By the end of last season the Rangers were on board and Rangers On Demand (or ROD, as I call it) was a huge success for them. A few weeks ago it was announced that every team in the NHL was going to use Neulion's technology.

And, believe me, Neulion's sportsworld takeover does not end there. Not a day goes by when some executive with a sports league or team isn't inquiring about how they can get their version of Islanders TV. Josh Bernstein, the Emmy-winning former producer at ESPN who runs the production side, is a very busy and popular man these days.

Tonight's breakthrough is just the latest. If you haven't heard, the MSG Network broadcast of tonight's Islanders-Rangers tilt - I mean, hockey game - will be available around the world through the NHL Center Ice Online package. It's a free trial and the key is that there are no blackout restrictions. It will be a Rangers broadcast with Rangers broadcasters (although I believe Joe Micheletti still secretly adores us). But Corey will be on hand at the Garden trying to get a little Islanders flavor into producer Joe Whelan's show.

Projects like this do not get done without a lot of cooperation from a lot of people. But what everyone really needs to understand is that none of this happens without the brilliance and tenacity of the people at Neulion and Islanders TV. They are pioneers, and they should be very proud.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Maybe they called 1.800.882.ISLES

Got a lot of calls today from the press asking for an official statement from the Islanders about whether the league is going to discipline the team or anyone on it for last night's, um, events.

My answer to everyone was, "What for"?

I know Chris Simon received a match penalty. Still trying to figure out what for, but whatever. He didn't do anything suspendable. Last I checked fighting was still allowed in the League de National Hockey.

Even goalies can do it. That was something. Within five minutes of DiPietro-Montoya, I must have gotten a dozen text messages from friends with some profane version of, "I knew I should have hit you up for tickets."

Last night was what it was - a preseason game between two REAL rivals, not those fake ones some folks around the game want you to believe really exist. The game included plenty of players with history with one another. The game also had players trying to make their teams.

What did you expect?

Now Chris Simon is Exhibit A for outsiders to whine about suspended players being allowed to play in preseason games. If they haven't already, you can count on Darren Dreger or Bob McKenzie or Nick Kypreos to have an exclusive soon that says the managers plan to discuss the issue at the next GMs meetings.

And should the rule be passed, it will forever be referred to as "the Chris Simon rule."

I don't have an opinion on whether suspended players should be allowed to play in preseason games. But don't blame Chris Simon.

(Again - and I really have to stop this - how can you not respect Tom Renney? He was pushed last night post-game to take a cheap shot at Simon and, once again, he didn't take the easy way out. He told reporters, "I thought Chris Simon was out there to play hockey tonight. I thought his first intention was to play a strong game of hockey and get himself ready for the season." I really hope Coach Renney gives me a reason to not like him at SOME point this season).

Anyway, like I said, my unofficial response to media inquiries today was, "What for"?

Officially, as of 8:30 tonight, the Islanders had not heard from the league.

As for the Rangers...

Just kidding.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Hey Ted, how about those Rangers"?

Flipping around the dial on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I came across an interview exchange that was so familiar to us in Islanders Country.

Sideline reporter Alex Flanagan of NBC had a quick hit with Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio just before the Spartans' kickoff yesterday in South Bend. These quick hits - like you see Deb Kaufman do with our assistant coaches between-periods - usually allow for just one question and maybe a followup. So of all the things Ms. Flanagan could have asked the Michigan State coach about his 3-0 team, she asked the following:

"Coach, what do you think Notre Dame's mindset is going into this game"?

This is exactly the sort of silliness Islanders coaches and players are faced with every time we play the Rangers.

Dantonio could not believe the question and did a poor job of hiding his digust. He shook his head, took a deep breath and said, "I don't care what their mindset is. I only care about the Spartans."

Mike Milbury was the Islanders coach for about two minutes when he got his welcome from the Rangers, I mean, New York media. You may remember it. His answer was "__________ the Rangers, _________ the Devils." If you ever wondered why Mike would have that reaction, that's because the second question he was asked at his introductory press conference was not "What do the Islanders need to get better," "Who's your starting goalie" or even "How excited are you that Alexander Semak and Niklas Andersson are on your first line"?

No, the second question asked to Milbury was, "How do you feel about going up against the Rangers"?

I mean, could that one have waited until, like, the eighth question?

Ah, what are you gonna do? That's life in New York. I certainly don't mean to paint everyone with a broad brush. And it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Some of our most supportive members of the New York media are probably those you'd least expect.

I do get a chuckle, however, when there's this talk of the Islanders-Rangers games meaning more to one team than the other. Another reason why it's impossible to not respect Tom Renney: last season the Rangers were still in their playoff slump and the Islanders had the better part of the first four matchups with the Blueshirts. A reporter threw out the theory that the games meant more to the Islanders. Renney responded, "Well, it's looked that way and it's time we changed our approach." And they did.

Can't believe the Coliseum is hosting a hockey game tomorrow night. History shows the Islanders will play a good portion of their NHL lineup since it's the team's only home game. Two days ago I would have predicted the Rangers would have sat a lot of regulars, but since they struggled to find chemistry on their top lines in their 5-0 home loss to the Flyers on Saturday, maybe we'll see Drury and Gomez. Either way, should be a blast.

There's also a good chance the Islanders will be down to around 30 players by puck-drop.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The old barn didn't stop Guerin, Comrie, Sutton, Fedo...

Hopefully you read the article in Newsday on Wednesday where Mike Sillinger gave his take on Smyth, Yashin and the Islanders' offseason. I want to clear up one issue for fans that was discussed in that piece.

When you hear talk about the Islanders' "facility" possibly hindering the team in its pursuit of certain top free agents, make no mistake: this is not about the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike when the placed is packed and raucous on a Saturday. This is not about the fans or the atmosphere in the Coliseum.

When Sillinger admitted to Greg Logan in the article that Billy Guerin and Mike Comrie asked him about the "facilities," when Garth acknowledged a theory by Mark Herrmann of Newsday in early July about the arena being a hurdle, they were not talking about the support or the passion of the fans.

They are simply referring to what you don't see when the Islanders exit the ice and go off-camera at the Coliseum.

Since buying the team, Charles Wang has invested a lot of resources into making the Islanders' locker room and training facility as good as it can be. It's a classy joint, with all the equipment anyone would need for a good workout, nice decor with photos of Islanders past and present and plenty of TVs to watch the out-of-town action. The weight room stereo system - do they still call them stereo systems? - is so good and cranks to so many decibels it drowns out Deb Kaufman's questions three doors down.

But I guess the key phrase is "as good as it can be." Until the Lighthouse Project is finalized - and it will be - the team is limited by its space in the built-for-1972 Coliseum. That's just reality. The cozy confines of the Islanders' locker room bring advantages; for one, it's a great place for Ted to coach. The players are right on top of him so he has everyone's attention.

I've seen many of the home team facilities in these new arenas and I figure the coach must wear a microphone to be heard in the cavernous locker room.

But when Garth conceded to Herrmann that the arena wasn't a selling point in its current state, he was simply being honest. If he was recruiting a top free agent and a state-of-the-art rink was actually a priority to the player (which would be pathetic, if you ask me), Garth probably wouldn't volunteer to host a tour. Or he'd blindfold the guy and drive him to Philly.

Now, should the Islanders host, let's say, a Game 5 in the second round of this season's playoffs...
...and, let's say, a prospective top free agent's team was out of contention...

...and, let's say, Garth wanted to risk the gajillion dollar NHL fine by tampering with said free agent...

Well, I couldn't think of a better way to sell someone on being an Islander than getting him a seat right in the middle of 16,000 crazy fans at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

So should the issue of the Islanders' facility ever come up again, I beg of you:

Do not take it personally.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Every picture tells a story

After last night's game in North Bay, the assembled media wanted to speak with Chris Simon about how he felt playing a game in Northern Ontario, closer for an NHL game than he's ever been to his home in Wawa. I went to Chris and explained why they wanted him, that it wasn't to rehash last season's incident with Hollweg. Si was happy to do it, then I mentioned there was a good chance we might walk by Gary Bettman on the way to the press area.

So we make the walk and practically run right into the commish. The hallway got a little quieter as everyone noticed Simon was about to greet (or not!) the man who presides over the league that gave him a landmark suspension. What people don't understand, however, is this is Chris Simon.

The commissioner very classily put his left arm on Simon's shoulder, shook his hand and asked how the Islander's offseason was. Chris was extremely pleasant, smiling, returning the warm exchange. Bettman and Simon continued to talk for a while and then the cameras started going off from everywhere.

I'm standing there thinking, This is fantastic. Nice turn of the page. Two professionals, two men showing there are no hard feelings. What a great image. I love this game.

I get the paper at the North Bay airport this morning and there's this huge picture on the front page of the local paper capturing the moment. Only problem is, the frame the editors picked is of Chris looking grim and Gary pointing at him. The photo caption reads, "NHL commissioner Gary Bettman makes his point with suspended Islanders forward Chris Simon after last night's game."

Oh well. You'll have to take my word for it.

One final nugget from Hockeyville. A young colleague of mine, completely single, decides he's met the latest life-partner of his dreams, a young woman from North Bay, Ontario. He asks her if she would like to join him and his Islander friends for dinner. She replies with a rejection that is one for the books: "Sorry, but I'm just not feeling very social tonight."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Flats says hi

Surreal scene here in North Bay, Ontario for the Kraft "Hockeyville" game against the Thrashers.

The arena is about the size of one of those New York City gyms where MSG televises high school hoops. A few thousand people filling not just every seat but literally every corner of the building. Among those in the house are Gary Bettman (standing 5 feet behind me, entertaining the press), Patrick Flatley (still bragging about the "Heals and Flats Show") and Jiggs McDonald (a little nervous again, now that Howie's Mets got swept again by the Phillies).

It's a privilege to be here. I'm standing on a perch that hangs over the ice and you can hear every hit (my guy Labelle broke the glass with a Thrasher), every word exchanged between opponents. Chris Simon is playing tonight like a man who missed the game oh so much.

Ted Nolan and John Chabot were big hits with the media before the game. Turns out a bit of history is being made because there's never been two First Nations coaches behind the same bench at an NHL game before. Ted never ceases to amaze me. We got here three hours before the game and he finds the time for everybody and treats everyone with class.

Turns out Josef Vasicek is very close to a family from the Soo from his junior days. He's been sort of a big brother to two of their children, both suffering from muscular dystrophy. JoVa made the effort to arrange tix for tonight's game and asked teammates such as Drew Fata (from the Soo) and Ted to stop by and visit. Didn't know Josef much before today. Now I know a lot about him.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First impressions (off the ice)

Always interesting to watch how guys are away from the rink. I guess no differently than how it is at the office you work in, you see all kinds.

Friday night there was a parade down Main Street here in Moncton and all of the players graciously agreed to be part of it even though it was optional. It was fascinating to watch how the players interacted with the Moncton community when the parade was over.

As we've come to expect already from his first three months as an Islander, Bill Guerin had the body language of someone who would have stayed until curfew if it meant shaking every hand, answering every question, signing every autograph. Bruno Gervais was, well, Bruno Gervais. I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't come away from talking to the kid feeling like they've made a new friend. Chris Campoli was his usual self, chatting it up with everyone. Jeff Tambellini. Andy Sutton. Mike Sillinger. Richard Park. Miro.

And then there were a few guys who couldn't keep their legs moving fast enough back to the hotel. Make no mistake: they were respectful, stopped for every autograph request, were never rude. I want to be clear on that. It was just interesting to see the contrast between the guys who took the time to, as Ted Nolan said, get to know the people, and the others who were clearly anxious to move on to the next thing.

But when you think about it, that's natural. Not all of us in any walk of life are comfortable in groups. Imagine what it must feel like to be wearing a colorful hockey jersey in the middle of Main Street and have hundreds of people looking at you. Some guys are naturals. Some aren't. That doesn't make anyone better than the others.

I would think Billy Guerin might impart some wisdom on fan and community relations to some of his younger teammates as we get deeper into the season. He comes across as a man who has made friends (and future business associates) everywhere he's been. Heck, nevermind just the players. We could all learn from him.

OFF TO NORTH BAY: Tomorrow afternoon a group of players, coaches, scouts and staff charter to North Bay, Ontario for the Kraft Hockeyville game against the Thrashers. The team is bringing about 30 players for the games in North Bay and Tuesday's game against the Bruins in St. John's, Newfoundland. I'm not allowed to release the complete roster yet for Monday's game, but check the site tomorrow morning. I know Logan was poking around today to get a roster up on his Newsday blog tomorrow, too.

What I can divulge is that it will likely be a fairly young lineup Monday and Tuesday. My hunch is you won't see some of the big names like Guerin, Comrie, Witt and DiPietro until the team plays the Canadiens in Moncton on Wednesday.

I'll be in North Bay and look forward to seeing Olivier Labelle against guys not in his team's sweater. Labelle continued to show a lot of guts, spunk and snarl today. Frans Nielsen, who may play in both games, looks better and better. Also expect to see Aaron Johnson, who played all last season for Columbus, get a long look. A few veteran Islanders mentioned to me today that Johnson is really making a run at a job on the blueline.

Oh yeah, and don't forget: Ted has a no-fight rule in the scrimmages, but that goes away Monday night in North Bay.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First impressions (on the ice)

Hockey analysis in Point Blank always comes with the qualifier that I'm not a scout, do not make hockey decisions and my take is simply a hunch based on what I detect about a player's guts, dedication, hustle and professionalism. For example, I knew the moment a young Steve Webb made his debut at Islanders training camp and crashed into and challenged every player on the ice that he'd have an NHL career. On the other hand, I doubt I would have been able to pick a teenaged Nicklas Lidstrom out of a crowd of prospects.

So here goes with a few random thoughts on some of the young players after just two days of camp.

Andrew MacDonald: The young defenseman is now much more than the kid Ted Nolan said the team should consider because he liked him when they were together in the QMJHL in Moncton. He's now a legitimate NHL prospect and I suspect he'll play in the league in a year or two and be a good player. I feel even better about writing this because, without prompting, a person with a keen eye and some say in the organization told me the same thing about MacDonald today. Between Gervais, Campoli and now MacDonald, seems the Islanders have snatched some good young dmen late in the last few drafts.

Blake Comeau: I really like this kid. More importantly for the young forward, so does Ted and everyone else. Comeau was so good in camp last year and then had a first great week with Bridgeport that it was surprising to see his numbers were so average last season. But I was reminded today about the high ankle sprain that bothered him for a good chunk of his time with the Sound Tigers. Comeau is very sound in all aspects of the game and could become a very, very good second-line player. Word is the only thing he has to work on - and this is no small detail - is to find a way to "bring it" every game. I would not bet against him.

Justin Bourne: Bob's kid hit the ice yesterday with the same butterflies and angst as all the other kids on day one. On top of that, he was wearing a jersey that said BOURNE on the back, just like the guy who's in the Islanders Hall of Fame and has four Stanley Cup rings. And then he had to do it with his dad at the rink and everyone watching them. While so many of the kids in the scrimmage yesterday showed obvious nerves, Justin scored a goal, had an assist on his next shift (on a goal by Comeau) and gave as many hits as he absorbed. I'm not going to tell you how Justin projects as an NHLer or AHLer, although I'd personally love to see him get a shot in Bridgeport this season. What I can tell you is I have tremendous admiration for what he accomplished yesterday in what should have been a difficult setting.

Olivier Labelle: You may ask, "Who"? So were a lot of people yesterday. But like Steve Webb more than a decade ago, Labelle had one of those first days when everyone walked out of the rink knowing his name. The 6-0, 190-pound forward - who played his first year of pro last season at AHL Syracuse - is a disturber. Most good NHL teams have one. The Islanders, without one since Webb although Jason Blake was certainly a disturber-plus, could use one in the system. Labelle is unsigned and on a tryout. The knock on him in the past is whether his skating is good enough for the top level. The key for Labelle is to maintain his level of intensity at every scrimmage, every game. If he does into next week, I have a feeling you'll hear more about him.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Eric Cairns retires...and now he's an Islander again

I’d heard a few days ago about Eric Cairns joining us in Moncton for an NYI Alumni breakfast sponsored by the good folks here. What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be so much more than that.

Cairnsy has officially retired as a player and this week he’s where he belongs – as an Islander.

Eric didn’t just meet the team in Moncton for a one-shot deal. No, he means too much to the fans and people of this franchise. Eric was on the charter plane that left Thursday afternoon from Farmingdale to New Brunswick. Turns out Garth Snow gave him a call recently and told Cairns he may be retired as a player, but he’s most definitely not a man without a team. Garth invited Cairns to become an Islander again and be part of training camp.

“I’m here to do whatever the team needs,” Eric said today during the first scrimmage of camp. “I’ll do the alumni events, talk to the young players, hang with the scouts, whatever I can do. I appreciate what Garth and the Islanders did. I loved it on Long Island and it’s so nice to be back.”

Nobody deserves this more than Cairns, and not just because he cleaned the Coliseum ice with Shayne Corson five years ago. Cairns’ presence in the Islanders' lineup made them a better team in so many ways. Look it up: when the Islanders picked the big defenseman/enforcer off the waiver wire from the Rangers, Long Island’s team gained from it, the city’s team missed him big-time.

His passion sometimes made him a misunderstood character. I know I had my moments with him, or should I say – since he’s got a half-foot and 40 pounds of muscle on me – he had his moments with me.

There was the day Steve Webb returned to the Coliseum in the uniform of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the FSN TV crew filmed a brief shot of Cairns and his best NHL buddy chatting in the hallway after the morning skate. Cairnsy did not like that and made it clear in his own way to me, my staffers, the cameraman and everyone on the TV crew. FSN thought they had a nice visual of two Islanders favorites reuniting. But for Eric, it broke the code. He was talking to a friend, it was private, and the hockey world didn’t need to see two very tough guys from opposing teams acting all nice to each other.

Fair enough. Like any issues with Cairns, time and a few heart-to-heart conversations would heal them. But that’s what made Cairns the player who made the jump – some might say against all odds, but not him – from the ECHL to the AHL to the Rangers and Islanders. I know so many fans with the picture of Cairns holding up the No. 1 index finger as he was escorted by the referees off the ice after pummeling Corson at the Coliseum. Of course, the paranoid people of Toronto wanted to believe Cairns was showing up the Leafs. Cairns would never do that. The morning after that playoff game he tried to explain what he was doing and I told him he didn’t owe an explanation to anyone.

If you know Eric Cairns as a teammate or a friend, you know that gesture was toward the fans for being No 1 in his oversized heart. Garth Snow recognized this and made a phone call that won’t make big news, but means a lot to so many people. I told Garth that it’s stuff like this that might give people the wrong impression our GM is actually a decent guy.

When Eric got on the charter yesterday and I realized this was more than just the cameo appearance of a former player, I got a little choked up. Good for him. Better for us.

Eric Cairns is an Islander.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How a trade is announced

For anyone interested, here's how we officially announce a trade. I figure this is a good time to do this because it looks like we'll have a swap of prospects in a little while.

1. The GMs of each team finalize their deal. Sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes weeks. I do not exaggerate.

2. The NHL Hockey Ops office conducts a conference call between the GMs and their top aides. The NHL serves as a sort of moderator to make sure everything is agreed to - trading of draft picks and in which year, bonuses, moving expenses, anything you can think of. These calls can be five minutes or a whole heckuva lot longer.

3. The players involved in the deal are contacted by their (now) former clubs. This is important. Most of the time teams are trading players they like, players they've been in the trenches with for years or maybe a kid they've watched develop. Understandably, the GMs want to deliver the news first-hand. They don't want players learning about it from Pierre LeBrun of Canadian Press or the guys on TSN or Sportsnet. I know of trades where it took the teams hours to find the players because they were at a movie, or even (in the offseason) on a different continent.

4. Once the players are reached, the PR staffs of the two teams discuss a time to release the news. Then you hope everyone keeps their word, which has never been a problem in my experience with my PR colleagues around the league.

Nevertheless, it sometimes hasn't stopped a (cough, Canadian) GM from contacting a (cough, Canadian) reporter whom he feels he owes a scoop and then some player ultimately learns his fate in the most unprofessional way possible. This isn't a concern of mine today. The young players in this deal have already been contacted and the PR guy at the other team and I have agreed on a release time. It most likely will not get out because the young players involved are not big names yet and the teams are from the US of A.

But you never know.

And that is how a trade gets announced.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Funny Papers

If you see an Islanders fan pulled over at the side of the road and they are laughing uproariously, chances are they are not listening to Howard Stern, O and A or the Best of Foreigner. They are, however, listening to the most hilarious thing to hit the airwaves in months.

The latest radio spot promoting the sports section of the New York Daily News - it's a knee-slapper!

In the radio commercial, the announcer extols the virtues of the News' sports section, twice giving star billing to sports editor Leon Carter. Here's the part that has Islanders (and Devils) fans rolling in the aisles: "Sports editor Leon Carter makes sure that all New York sports teams have the best coverage in town."

I'm telling ya, folks: it only gets funnier with each listen. I'm at the point now where I volunteer to go to Dairy Barn during my Yankees games, praying Robby Cano makes the third out so I have a chance of hearing the Daily News commercial.

If only it were a joke.

For the record, the Daily News covers most Islanders home games once baseball season is over and does not send beat writer Peter Botte on the road. We get the occasional off-day mention, usually in that box where they lump in somone breaking the pole vault record and golf tournaments Tiger doesn't play in. Sometimes, when the Islanders do something of moderate interest, like fire Neil, give Ricky a landmark contract or trade for Captain Canada, we even get a couple hundred words.

It wasn't that long ago the Islanders received regular coverage in the Daily News. Anthony McCarron, now a baseball writer there, was on us every day. So was Ralph Vacchiano, now the Giants beat writer.

Besides the obvious - losing coverage in a major NY tabloid - the dropoff is an even bigger shame because Pete Botte is one of the best sports reporters in town. Islanders fans know this because Pete used to cover the team for the Post. Back then, he had plenty of space for his wicked commentary and exclusive reports. He was so good.

No one knew how to get more out of Mike Milbury than Botte. How did he do it? Simply by listening. When it looked like Mike might be done with his rant, Pete would make eye contact with the other writers on the beat as if to say, "Don't ask another question"! There would be about ten seconds of silence and then Mike would continue on, always delivering his A material. Botte has those kind of instincts.

Pete still does that today - he has the pride in his work to get to as many practices as he can, even when he knows he probably won't have space - but it's just not the same. Garth and Ted usually put periods on their sentences and well, even when they get off a zinger, Botte usually doesn't have the room in the next day's paper to get it in.

I continue to hope the Daily News changes its position and gets Pete back on us full-time. And then when it happens, that son of a gun Botte will probably make me regret it!

I know I'll get some emails wondering if it's smart to go after the Daily News. Fact is, I wouldn't if it weren't for the absurdist comedy of the radio spot. That's just asking for it. The marketing staff at the Daily News should not insult Islanders fans. You can't NOT cover the team and then run a commercial like that.

And I certainly don't blame Leon Carter for the spot. I knew Leon briefly when I did a short stint a long time ago at Newsday, where he was a up-and-comer at the sports desk. I deal with him from time to time as I push for more coverage. Leon doesn't strike me as a guy who would walk into a board meeting and declare, "Hey, I think we should do a radio commercial where you talk about me like I'm Woodward and Bernstein!"

For now, if you're an Islanders fan who likes the Daily News but you're angry Pete Botte isn't with us at least five days a week, I guess you could do two things: don't buy the newspaper and contact Daily News editor-in-chief Martin Dunn with a polite note of disappointment.

Make no mistake: we want the Daily News back covering us. We need the Daily News covering us.

Please just change that radio spot. My stomach can't take it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bill Guerin buys lunch

A hearty congratulations to our friends at The Hockey News for actually including the NYI in their season preview issue that just came out. This is quite an accomplishment for the HN editors, who did the impossible in March. For their Stanley Cup Playoffs preview issue, they included 10 teams in the East - and left out the Islanders.

On a Hockey News sidenote, I do like Adam Proteau, a young and gifted columnist. This takes guts for me to admit publicly (well, in this little blog) because Garth wasn't thrilled with Proteau naming his signing of the Tank as the worst valued deal of the summer. I emailed Adam with a list of about a dozen reasons why he was wrong and Proteau told me his inbox had already been creamed by Islanders fans pointing out that Scotty Gomez had just as many goals and is making 7 mill more than Ruslan this season (don't mess with NYI fans!). And besides, hands-down the most mind-boggling signing of the summer was the lucrative long-term deal given to a talented and game former Islanders defenseman who's showing signs of breaking down after playing hard and hurt for so long.

Last year many experts made the mistake of picking the Islanders to do poorly because they completely overrated the impact of the Neil Smith saga. I remember asking John Buccigross of ESPN where he would have picked the NYI if Neil was still the suit watching from a private suite and he admitted he would have had us in the playoff hunt. My point was not to confuse the GMs whose primary work is done when the puck is dropped with the athletes on the ice or the men leading them behind the bench.

This year the press seems to be overrating the players we lost and undersestimating the players Garth added. Kinda funny that last summer these folks snickered at the additions of Viktor and Poti and now they are citing them as major losses.

No one's gonna argue two significant departures: the relentless and beloved Jason Blake, whom the Islanders decided to not offer a deal beyond three years (Jason signed with TO for five) and Ryan Smyth, whom the NYI made no secret they wanted back at almost any cost. But when we're adding up the goals lost and gained, I think we need to lose the idea that Garth needed to replace Ryan's 30-40 goals. As I'm reminded all the time, Ryan scored five for the NYI.

For at least the next two years, Bill Guerin will do a lot more than "replace" those goals lost. In the two months he's been with us, Guerin has been amazing before he's even played a game. A couple of weeks ago he showed up at the offices in Plainview. If it wasn't inspirational enough for the staff that the new captain walked up to everyone and introduced himself, he arranged for lunch for the whole crew. Then he made sure his major contribution to Islanders Inspire was finalized. Then he bought six season tickets.

Never been anything like it in Islanders Country in 20 years.

Guerin-Smyth for the next two years could be regarded as a wash, but I'll give an edge to Guerin because he wanted to be here and has acted like it's a privilege to be an Islander since the day Garth handed him the C.

Before we leave for Moncton, I'll get back on topic and explain in more detail why Ted's crew is being disrespected in the pre-season polls by a few wrongheaded experts...again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I believe the legendary original Polish Prince, our IT guru Pawel Tauter, is going to make it official about the two new blogs by posting something on the team site. Thought it would be rude to not say hello and hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend.

Hockey is here. Yeah, it's 85 on the Island today, but all the signs are there. The U.S. Open is underway and men and women alike are quitting mid-match with injuries a hockey player wouldn't skip a game in October for. The kids are going back to school. Ricky D is bouncing off the walls.

Well aware things have been quiet the last two weeks since Garth signed Vasicek and Berard committed to camp, but it will pick up. (You'll want to bookmark Corey Witt's blog because he often gets the news before anyone. Sometimes he even forgets to tell me, so I'm counting on his blog to get updates on the company I work for).

Two big events coming up. Islandermania, the incredible fan message board that's been kicking butt and taking names for years, will become the official board of the NYI as early as this evening.

And I can't overestimate the importance of Saturday's on-sale of the single-game tickets. Don't have confirmation yet, but it appears the team will have a few special guests stop by the line, including Garth and Ted. Either way, it should be a blast.

As for this blog, it will continue to take shape as the season goes on. When I wrote a few columns this summer and included some culture things like favorite plays and movies, Greg Logan tweaked me. He said he liked the stuff, but felt there's enough of that, that hockey needs people writing about, ya know, hockey. Fair criticism.

So don't expect to be bothered by me telling you about my wife Catherine re-joining the workforce after 9 years. Or about how great the low-low-low- budget movie "Once" is (I think it's still playing at the Roslyn). I'm not going to suggest you go get the Season 2 DVD of "Prison Break" because it's a terrific show and written and exec-produced by a genuine flag-waving Islanders fan. I'm not going to whine about Mussina.

This will be about PR, the media, the fans and the Islanders. If I stray off course, call me out on it.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

When coaches think too much

Had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Notre Dame for the weekend, tour the campus and watch the Fighting Irish's season opener against Georgia Tech. I say once in a lifetime because the Irish got whooped so bad, I doubt an invitation from my father-in-law (Class of 1956) will ever come again.

I wasn't on campus five minutes when I ran into Jeff Jackson, the former Islanders assistant coach who replaced Dave Poulin two seasons ago as head coach at ND. Jeff, a legendary collegiate coach from his days at Lake Superior State, was NCAA coach of the year in '06-07. I asked Jeff if he was taking in the big football game as a fan and he pointed out to me he was "working." Makes sense that if you're recruiting athletes, might as well bring them to campus when the place is at its best. ND is getting a new hockey facility so I wouldn't be surprised if JJ turns them into a national powerhouse.

People in New York either love or hate Notre Dame. There's no debating it's a remarkable place. About 30 minutes after the game, there are church services all over campus. We went to the Basillica. Picture thousands of people that have been tailgating since 9:30 in the morning and then watched their team get smoked going directly to 7:30 pm mass. Then, I'm serious, the first thing out of the priest's mouth is, "It's quite ironic today's gospel is about humility, because I think it's fair to say everyone at Notre Dame was served a piece of humble pie today." Yeah, that went over well.

Going into the game, Irish head coach Charlie Weis did something that goes against what I, uh, preach to Islanders coaches. He took something that wasn't a big deal to anybody - the naming of his starting quarterback - and turned it into a big deal. Weis got burned and he'll be hearing about it all year, maybe longer. Allow me to backtrack.

Brady Quinn graduated, leaving Notre Dame with a choice of three quarterbacks: a junior, a sophomore and a talented but troubled freshman. It would have been fine for Weis to wait until, say, Tuesday, to announce his starter. But the coach - maybe feeling he was doing the right thing, more likely trying to make the story about him - played games all week. On Friday, trying to explain himself, Weis told "Mike & Mike" on ESPN Radio he was doing it to protect the three QBs from having to answer questions from the media. I think if the three young men couldn't handle a few questions, they wouldn't have signed letters of intent with a program that receives millions from NBC to show all of their home games.

So Charlie played his game and got burned. Badly. By the end of Saturday's sad performance, all three quarterbacks saw action. Worse then the players was the work of the coaching staff. I've never seen a football team more poorly prepared, more disorganized before each play. The trivia question on the scoreboard when the game was 16-0 was about how Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all led the Irish to the national championship in their third seasons as coach. That piece of trivia figures to go unchanged for a while.

Coach Weis wanted to be the story and he got his wish.

My advice to Ted Nolan and his predecessors has always been to simplify their dealings with the media. If the Leafs play-by-play man wants to know your line combinations and you've been using the same ones for two weeks, throw him a bone and give him the lines. If Logan wants to tell his readers in the next day's paper that Rick's starting against the Rangers, confirm it for him. Don't make something out of nothing.

Only exception I can understand and have defended in the past are serious injuries and injuries during the playoffs, and now the NHL is cracking down on the upper and lower body thing. Ted does a good job of communicating with Islanders fans through the media. In his first year he never got caught up in silly stuff, picking fights with the press, making stories where there wasn't one. I don't see that changing in year two.

Count on Coach Weis naming his starter for Penn State early this week.