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.

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