Back in June, our new Senior VP Chris Dey wasn't in the job for 24 hours when he got the ball rolling on a post-victory salute from the players to the fans. Garth and Ted quickly bought in and it made its debut last night.
The soldout crowd seemed to love it, if the roar as the Islanders raised their sticks in unison on the blue line is fair evidence. But I'm aware of a handful of critics on the fan message boards this morning, the biggest critique being the salute mimics what the Rangers have done the last two seasons. Let's clear the air on that, shall we?
The Rangers had a lot of good fan-related initiatives post-work stoppage, the salute included. Full marks to them. As a competitor off the ice, I hate when someone gets there before us.
But let's be clear: the New York Rangers did not invent the stick-raise. I guess the Islanders could have gone out of their way to do a variation - bang sticks on the ice, something like that - but this seemed the most effective, the most powerful.
And besides, in recent years the Islanders have been the innovators behind Islanders TV, the Blog Box, Rexcorp Islanders Inspire (close to 2,000 underprivileged children coming to Kids' Opening Day tomorrow as a result), NYI365, the Islanders Business Club, Loudville, inviting all of your season subscribers to a Mets game or Eisenhower Park to hang with the players. Oh yeah, and the Ice Girls. If we got beat on the post-game salute, so be it.
What's important is we're doing it because the fans deserve to be acknowledged. Seems it would be pretty stubborn and foolish to not do something because another team, even our rivals, also did it.
The salute is a work-in-progress. I spoke to Bill Guerin this morning and he was really happy with the fan response. We have encouraged the players to make it their own. If they have a variation they would like to try, we'll implement it.
(Oh yeah, one shot we took on the boards was from a passionate fan who said he saw me and the staff directing the players where to go - as if it wasn't genuine. Please understand that after a player gives his all for 60 minutes and is completely drained when the buzzer sounds, it's possible he could forget where to line up. After another win or two, we won't need traffic cops. And BTW, I wasn't anywhere near the ice. That was probably Tim Beach, and I'm insulted we were confused for one another).
In the end, what matters most is what Guerin said this morning: "That crowd was nuts last night, didn't you think"?