Friday, May 30, 2008

Camden Yards 16 years later: Time for Nassau to get off its rear

On Tuesday night, I attended the scoping meeting on the Lighthouse Project at the Town of Hempstead Hall. The next day, I was in Baltimore at the invitation of my brother to watch Andy, Joba and Mariano shut down the Orioles.

Looking out my window at the Hyatt over the Inner Harbor, a 5-minute walk from Oriole Park, I couldn't help but think of the contrast between what Baltimore accomplished and Nassau County has not. Sixteen years later, Baltimore remains the shining example of what a smart-use sports facility can do for a region. Sixteen years and countless new stadia later, Camden Yards is still the best ballpark to visit.

While this 12-scenes-in-7-minutes Flip video is unedited, shaky and amateurish, hopefully it also makes a point. Keep those questions and comments coming.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rick Reilly on Islanders fan Miriam from Forest Hills

islesblogger was kind enough to ask:

In a career that has taken you through extraordinary highs and even shown you the lowest of lows, how could you even begin to narrow down your experiences and pick a single favorite?

You're right, islesblogger. I cannot. Before I close shop in July, I'll list of some of my favorite moments. For now, I'll start with one - the night Miriam Stone came to her first Islanders game.

Rick Reilly wrote a column about it for the 2002 year-end issue of Sports Illustrated. I was in Baltimore yesterday for Yankees-Orioles and ran into a friend who said the Miriam column made Reilly's anthology, "Hate Mail From Cheerleaders," out in bookstores now. (As if Rick needed the plug). I have several copies of the magazine, but had to run to the Barnes & Noble to pick up the book. At the end of the story, Reilly has a nice postscript about how blunt Miriam is.

This is a good opportunity to mention that none of this would have happened if not for the participation of WFAN host Joe Benigno (a Rangers fan!) and his producer at the time, Ray Martel. Appropriately, Martel later on married an Islanders fan.

Read Rick Reilly's column on Islanders fan Miriam from Forest Hills here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Double Minor: should John Tonelli's number be retired?

If I can somehow figure out how to use The Flip video camera in the scant few hours since picking one up at Best Buy today, then there may be hope for all of us.

Here is my double minor's worth of thoughts on John Tonelli and his place in Islanders history. Forgive the shoddy cinematography, lame set design and face for radio. When it comes to technology, for me this is an accomplishment.

Q: on the NYI Hall of Fame

mtrico writes:

Where did the Islanders come up with the idea for the Islanders Hall of Fame? A few years ago, I sent you an email attaching a scan of an article I found in the paper where one of Bob Bourne's sons (not sure if it was Justin) said that his dad was more than a role player on the Stanley Cup teams, and that he was disappointed that he was often refferred to as such. In the email I suggested that Bourne and others like Tonelli should be inducted into an Islanders hall of fame. Did that email ever get to you? Also, will Tonelli be the next inductee? He sure deserves it. Talk about underrated guys, he is at the top of the list.

Good luck with the job search!
p.s. I check more than once a day for new posts, so please keep posting.

Thanks, mtrico. Your email definitely did play a role in the creation of the Islanders Hall of Fame. Jeffrey Bourne also sent a letter to me about his resentment of his dad being referred to as a "role player." That's what we do in sports - we categorize without thinking. Bossy and Trottier are all-stars, so everyone else must be a role player. That's not right, but Justin's letter was. I was moved by a son sticking up for his dad so eloquently.

As several teams do, there was an unofficial policy that only Hockey Hall of Famers would have their numbers retired by the Islanders. There was one exception made: Bob Nystrom, for (then) 25 years of service to the team and the community. When you win four straight championships, you could make the case every man who played on all four teams deserves a night. That said, the line was drawn at Hall of Famers.

The Islanders were looking for a way to honor so many of the men worthy of a spotlight, and the Islanders Hall of Fame was created. A list of rather obvious candidates to be the first inductees was drawn up – John Tonelli, Butch Goring, Ed Westfall, Bourne, Stefan Persson, a few others. Two men were contacted. One, for understandable personal reasons, politely declined for the time being. It was decided Bob Bourne would have his own night. Bob’s only request was that the event be held before a game on Thanksgiving weekend so both of his sons could attend. Justin Bourne is now a forward in the Islanders’ system.

In the Zamboni corner moments before the start of the ceremony, I put my arm around Jeff Bourne and told him his letter was a big reason why we were there. One of the gifts Bob received from the franchise was a hockey sled for Jeff, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down. His attitude on and off the ice makes Jeffrey Bourne a lot more than a role player. He is an inspiration.


(I will share my thoughts on Mr. Tonelli in a later post).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Take me out of the ballgame

Larry Brooks, now writing columns on the Yankees when in the good ol' days of the early 2000s he might have been at the Stanley Cup Final, today in the Post has an update on the potential of an NHL game at Yankee Stadium.

Larry's article is fact-filled and unbiased.

So is the following:

The New York Islanders, and only the New York Islanders, started the process of looking into the possibility of having a hockey game at Yankee Stadium. This process started more than a year before the first word was ever written about it in the press. It began before there were plans for the Penguins and Sabres to play an outdoor game in Buffalo.

The initial reaction of everyone else in the National Hockey League? A roaring, bordering on snickering, chorus of Aerosmith's "Dream On." Their issue wasn't about the Islanders being part of the game. It was naysayers - the ones who didn't put in the effort to dream big and then try to make it happen - tsk-tsking, "The Yankees will never allow a hockey game at Yankee Stadium."

Meetings between the Islanders and Yankees went deep enough that an all-hands-on-deck session with several executives from each team met at Yankee Stadium. This meeting, held a little more than two years ago, was hosted by Yankees COO Lonn Trost, quoted in today's article in the Post.

I was at the meeting. I was blown away by Trost's sincerity and the commitment of the Yankees staff to see the hockey game become a reality. As a lifelong Yankees fan, I walked into it wondering if real progress could be made. I walked out of it three hours later saying to myself, "Holy crap, we're gonna play a frickin' hockey game at the cathedral in the Bronx."

It was always understood the Rangers would be part of the game.

And still, the reaction of everyone else in the game? It wasn't, "Hey, slow down. The Islanders don't have the right to move this process along." It was more along the lines of, "C'mon boys, stop it. You're killin' us. Ain't gonna happen."

I could take this a lot farther, but that will have to do for now. Probably took it too far already. In time I'd imagine the rest will come out elsewhere.

Bottom line: if anyone really believes Bruins-Rangers over Islanders-Rangers is a significant ratings difference-maker, I can't help you there. But anyone with an ounce of fairness and decency in their soul knows the New York Islanders should be part of any NHL event at Yankee Stadium.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Attention, All PR Candidates: Take my job, please

If you are interested in applying to the Islanders for the vacant PR position left by my departure, let me be clear: I wholeheartedly recommend that you apply.

There are a limited number of PR jobs in team sports. When one opens up, you have to go for it.

If you get the opportunity to work for the New York Islanders, you’ll work alongside several remarkable people. Just as important, the team is owned by someone as committed to the region as anyone I know.

If you are a friend of mine, I especially recommend you immediately send a letter and resume. I’ve been delicately – oh-so-delicately – approached about this by a number of people. Why all the sensitivity? Why the concern for my reaction of a friend or colleague applying for the job?

I do not work there anymore. I left on good terms. I’ve made it really clear I’m still rooting for the team, even more so for my dear former co-workers.

For those of you who don’t give a hoot about this subject, please forgive my rant. It’s just that I’m amazed by some of the BS calls I’ve received in the last week or so:

“Do you think it’s something I should go for”? (YES! WHY THE HECK NOT?)

“Do you think I’m what they’re looking for”? (HOW THE HECK WOULD I KNOW? NEWS FLASH: I DON’T WORK THERE ANYMORE!)

“Would it be weird if I applied, or a waste of my time”? (I SIMPLY JUST DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THAT ONE, AND – TO BE FRANK – I’VE GOT OTHER STUFF TO FOCUS ON NOW)

I know I’m probably coming off as a major weenie, but from the beginning I really tried to be the opposite. I wasn’t gone from the Islanders a day when I spread the word to everyone in the business that they should absolutely jump on the opportunity if they felt it was right for them.

I should state that I don’t know exactly what the Islanders’ plans are for my old position. I’ve heard some rumblings about a friend in the organeyezation doing triple-duty and sliding over to direct my former staff, but that has not been made official as far as I can tell.

So, friends in PR, what are you waiting for?

You have my blessing.

There’s no need to tip-toe around the subject when you call me.

And, if you get the gig, please leave the 4 comps in the name of Chris, Aidan, Luke and Cole Botta.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Q: On continued fan relations

Nick asks:

Do you think the Islanders will continue with their open policy towards fans, like the Blog Box?

I would not expect that to change and, in fact, I think the team will only expand their fan initiatives. As it is, the Islanders are one of the most accessible teams in all of pro sports. Having a strong grasp on what most of the other teams do, I would put the Islanders easily in the top 20.

I saw that ESPN Fan Poll where they rank all 122 teams in a variety of subjects - Ted Nolan came in No. 5, the fan experience at the only-gloriously-decrepid-when they're-winning Coliseum finished close to last. I was amazed the Islanders were somewhere in the 70s for accessibility to players and management. I don't think I have to go into all the events and initiatives the team has for fans. Let's just say the ranking was absurd.

NYI Blog Box will likely be taken to the next level. I'm proud of what we started last year, but now the key is "What's next"? Corey and I discussed some ideas at the end of last season. I'm confident it will only grow bigger and better.

I guarantee the team's relationship with Islandermania as the official message board will continue to develop in bolder ways. Toward the end of my tenure there, I know some members of management met with at least one other major message board. The franchise always has time for its fans. Of course, the challenge continues to win new ones.

So to answer your question Nick, yes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

3 questions: Coliseum project, lowest moment(s), questionable moves

“Mn” has a quartet of questions, three I’ll address now, one at a later date. I answer them within his post, one-by-one. Please feel free to keep the questions coming. I still have so many to get to, but it’s been fun and I don’t think I’ve gotten myself in trouble yet. Yet.


You've been through a lot with the Isles. It's a shame after all the bad years you won't be with them if they ever turn it around.

I was there for the ride in 1993. Had a blast in ’01-02 from the 11-1-1 start through the classic first round with the Leafs. Sure I wish we’d won more, but I’ll be just as happy watching it with my kids in the stands – especially with so many good friends still with and on the team.

Couple of Questions:
1. What are the odds of the Lighthouse Project making it through the approval process, and if it doesn't what happens to our team?

The Coliseum project has been approved by Nassau County, which some people never thought would happen. It’s now in the zoning process with the Town of Hempstead. I won’t lie to you: there were times when I’d wonder if the pols would ever wake up and make a deal. But now I feel it’s as close as ever to becoming a reality.

In one of my final weeks on the job, I saw something that really opened my eyes. I was visiting my pal Paul Lancey, whose staff is overseeing PR and other areas for the project, and he took me to the executive meeting room at Rexcorp Plaza. There is a large window with a perfect view of all of that asphalt surrounding the Coliseum. It’s really something to see.

Here’s something Charles Wang never gets credit for, and should. He has never – not once – played the card of even casually threatening to move if the project doesn’t get done. I’m sure he’s had some advisors (cough, cough) through the years telling him it’s the quickest way to mount pressure for a deal, but Charles has steadfastly refused. This makes him a far better man than me, because I’m pretty sure if I was in his position I’d have lost my cool by now and been on the front page of Newsday.

The project will get done, and it will get done soon – or else. What “or else” is, I do not know and don’t even want to think about it. But respect Charles Wang for remaining a gentleman throughout. As a reminder, he bought/saved the Islanders eight years ago and a shovel is still not in the ground.

2. What was the lowest moment in all of your years with the team - SpanoGate? HoistGate? Trading of Ziggy? Fisherman jersey? Kirk Muller?

Yes/oh my God/you wouldn’t believe it.
Definitely; hope to never spend that much time in court again.
Uggh, and almost to the New York Rangers.
Don’t remind me; I’m personally disgusted with myself for that one.
You betcha.

3. What was the worst personnel move that an Isles GM made during your tenure? Bertuzzi/McCabe trade? Jokinen/Luongo trade? Turgeon/Malakov trade? Trade for Yashin? Drafting of Michael Rupp? Drafting of Nilsson over Parise? Letting Healy go after the 1993 playoffs?

I won’t get into this too much, because I’m bound to tick off fans either way (“What do you mean? How can you not say __________ was the worst move ever”!) I will share just two thoughts.

The decision I didn’t understand on any level? The drafting of Michael Rupp. Not because he didn’t have some size and ability, but because everyone said at best Michael was going to be a 5-year project, and this was in the day of the mammoth entry-level, 3-year deals when you were forced to decide on prospects quickly.

The move that made my knees buckle? That would be when I was strolling the streets of Calgary, Friday night, 10:15 pm local time and the sun was still out. I got the call we were trading Roberto Luongo and drafting Ricky. The only thing that’s equally incredible is Roberto was drafted 11 years ago and has been on only one playoff team in the NHL.

Next question: scary interview subjects

7th Woman asks:

In all your years experience, which player would make you worry the most every time they were interviewed by the media?

There were a few.

John Vanbiesbrouck: We had John during the infamous 2000-01 season, when the team finished 30th. Beezer is a good man and great quote, but he'd scare the heck out of me from time to time. The most notorious moment was when he led Post reporter Barry Baum into the locker room and roasted him in front of the rest of the Islanders players for a story John said was untrue. Trouble is, Vanbiesbrouck didn't include me in the meeting - or tell me he was having it, or even tell me he was pissed about Baum's article - so I looked like a stiff. We played the Senators that day and the Ottawa writers, a bit shy to take on the veteran goalie, ripped the PR guy in their newspapers instead. I learned my lesson and vowed it would never happen again.

Michael Peca: Not complaining about Pecs. I think he enjoyed keeping me on edge, is all. The press loved him. He once admitted to me in his Pecaresque way that he loved the media just as much. What I liked about Mike is that, on the really bad losses, he always came up big in the post-game scrum - just as Billy Guerin did last year. Peca spoke from the heart and did not pull any punches. That's what caused me agita once in a while.

Any head coach reporting injuries: If I had one more crack at the gig, I'd push for the NFL-style of reporting injuries. Basically, you hand out a daily, full-disclosure list of the injured players, their ailments and their status. This is not to pick on Ted, Peter Laviolette or anyone else. Fact is, NHL coaches have enough on their minds without having to keep every trainer's update straight. An official daily report would take the onus off them and eliminate the annual miscommunications that eventually lead to Logan killing us on his blog.

Kirk Muller: From the day he was acquired until the day he was traded, Kirk never once told the truth - to the team, to the media, to me.

On a lighter note, speaking of interesting interviewees, let me end with a Mike Milbury story. One year we're at the draft and Mike is led to the grand podium because, as you know, he usually was a story at the draft. The questions are coming at him from all corners of a packed press conference area.

One question comes and Mike cannot see his interrogator. He scans the room, squints his eyes into the bright lights and sees the reporter with the question. Turns out it's David J. Neal, at the time the Panthers' beat writer for the Miami Herald. This is the part where I should tell you that David is Rastafarian.

So Milbury finally locates David, who emerges through the glare of the lights with a raised hand and a sheepish grin on his face. Milbury senses what everyone in the cramped room is feeling - that somehow he couldn't locate the one reporter in the press conference who was black and dressed head to toe in full Rasta splendor.

Mike smiles and says, "Geez, David, how the hell did I miss ya"?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Selena Roberts misses her connection

Selena Roberts is a brilliant sports columnist, formerly of The New York Times and currently on the back page of Sports Illustrated. Like a lot of extraordinary writers before her, she recently went on television and made the mistake of acting like a fraudulent talking head instead of a brilliant sports columnist.

On the “Costas Now” town hall on the future of media, showing all this month on all 139 versions of HBO, Roberts bemoaned the lack of real media access to athletes these days. She cited how she has to go through layers of people – PR flaks, agents, team management – to interview a professional athlete. Roberts shared her frustration of working on a piece on Lebron James and not being able to get anywhere near him. In the end, Roberts emailed her questions to Lebron’s camp, James recorded his answers on tape and those answers were transcribed back in an email to Roberts.

Selena Roberts talked about wanting “to have a connection with the athlete,” about truly getting to know the athlete and “what’s inside him” before writing her story. Oh, for the good old days of having a beer with Mickey Mantle and not having to deal with all those silly bloggers.

It all sounded lovely on the SI writer’s part…except, of course, that it was all a load of made-for-TV crap. This is what happens when even a singular talent agrees to go on HBO and tell Bob Costas exactly what she thinks Bob Costas wants her to say.

In her five years as a columnist at The New York Times, Selena wrote one article on the New York Islanders.

Game 1 of the first round of the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Islanders at Lightning. Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns has a nightmarish pair of shifts, with two giveaways leading to two goals and a Tampa Bay win. To be clear, Eric had a horrible game at the worst possible time. To be fair, there isn’t a defenseman in the history of the game that hasn’t had one just like it.

For the record, Selena Roberts was not at the game. In the aftermath – her column ran two days later - she did not contact anyone at the Islanders to request Cairns or his head coach on the phone. She did not travel to Tampa Bay for Game 2. You could say Eric Cairns is not Lebron James, but that really wouldn’t be the point, would it? Cairns would have spoken with Roberts on the phone for as long as she would have needed him. I would not have written, or emailed, the answers for him. That’s not how we do it in hockey.

Without speaking to anyone, Roberts decided to use Eric Cairns as Exhibit 1-A for her theory that “the playoffs prove that the embrace of goons is borne of historic habit, not necessity.” Read the whole thing here.

Roberts wrote that Cairns’ performance in the game was “a singular example of goon liability, of enforcer irrelevance, of a sport's cultural ambivalence.”

And yet, Roberts never took the time to meet Cairns, to “have a connection” with him, to see “what’s inside him.” Ever.

Too bad. If nothing else, she would have made a connection with a real unique, loyal and kind person. She would have gotten inside the head of a gentleman who battled from the lowest of the minor leagues to play defense for both the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

Selena Roberts didn’t even try to get to know Eric Cairns, despite the fancy garbage she spewed on HBO for Bob Costas.

Next question: on the press coverage

The next round of questions comes from Bill from the blog NYI Fan Central.

Would the Isles be willing or allowed to pay the Times, SI Advance, Westchester Journal, Newark Star Ledger, Post, News to assign a full time professional beatwriter and let him travel with the club and provide a daily blog?

There is not a legitimate daily newspaper around that would take money from a sports team or anyone for coverage (insert joke here). At the Islanders, we let it be known to all four major NY dailies that their beat writer could travel on the team charter, free of charge. If any of the papers had a moral issue flying for free on the team plane, they could pay the team an agreed-upon rate. Since the team plane leaves after the road games, the money saved on the extra night of lodging would be significant. Newsday did it with Alan Hahn for one season (paying per flight leg) before ending the practice. For the other three papers, it still wasn't enough for regular coverage.

Besides, let's say a newspaper did take money for coverage, impartial or otherwise. What would that say about the New York Islanders?

Given the Newsday-Cablevision merger and what it's meant in the past for Islander coverage with Cablevision taking games off television or hiding them on Metro, Fsn-2, Msg+2 it's fair to say the coverage is going to drop ever further in Newsday, do you agree?

I've been asked this a lot lately. My answer is that I would be shocked if the Newsday coverage of the NYI comes down when Cablevision takes over. There's even a solid chance it would be enhanced. My reasons why, sorry, will have to be for some other day.

Would you be willing to write for the Isles in Newsday if offered, given Pat Calabria went from Newsday to the Isles?

Absolutely, but I'm not waiting by the phone. Greg Logan has that job locked up and does a superb job with the space he is given in the paper and on the web. I imagine most sports editors would be hesitant, knowing my close relationship with the team for 20 years. I think it would be a great challenge for me, and I'd like to think I could break a few stories and bring some different perspectives.

It's like the question I've gotten from friends and hockey fans whether I would ever work for the Rangers. Right now, I'll work for anyone who treats me well and has a good position available. I never thought I'd know what it feels like to be an unrestricted free agent.

Tell me why Greg Logan should be praised for being outblogged in the Isles only paper or going overboard to create issues while barely praising the team.

Greg is a beat reporter, not a columnist. He rarely is given the opportunity to praise or beat up the team. The only time he does is when he blogs. Greg has a different approach to the blog. Greg is a traditional reporter, but he's not a traditional blogger who posts 3 times a day. My hunch is he feels his daily coverage prevents that. Instead, Greg's blogs tend to be opuses - long "think pieces" on what's up with the team. Yes, I understand Steve Zipay blogs more often on his Rangers blog for Newsday and Katie Strang has done a lot lately on the Islanders blog while Logan is away. I'm not defending Greg on this, just trying to explain that his style is different than the others. Quality over quantity.

Understand this about Greg Logan. No one fights harder to get Islanders coverage into Newsday. No one battles more to make sure road trips are covered - think it's a slam dunk at the LI newspaper? Think again. When the Islanders "deliver" - Smyth trade, playoffs, big signings, I'm sure the upcoming 5th overall pick - Logan pushes for maximum coverage.

Count on it. When the day comes that Logan is off the beat, you'll notice. And you won't be happy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Questions pour in...the first one's on Garth

Thanks for all the questions. Good to know you're still reading. Please feel free to continue to post your questions in the Comments area. The first one comes from NYIBC and is about GM Garth Snow.


In my 20 years of being strictly an Islander fan (I was one of those morons who rooted for ALL the teams in my early hockey watching years), the one constant with going to games, and getting to know people that worked for the organization, was you.

You have always been one of professionalism, honesty, and one that I respected so much. I just needed to get that statement out first.

As far as questions go... We had Garth Snow at our Booster Club meeting last night, and I can tell you that he is a great presence in front of a crowd, which I know you are aware of. I know that he is a smart man, and is doing the best he can for this organization. I am not making this question a negative, but with his 'still new in the job' air about him, what does he have to do, in order to not have a repeat of last year, where it seemed that guys with contracts that were ending basically just up and left, with little or no dialogue (at least according to this person).

Once again, Chris, best of luck, in whatever you do. I know that you will succeed! Look forward to seeing you as a fan!

Thanks for the nice words, NYIBC. I'm looking forward to going to a game and seeing everyone, too.

As for Garth, this might not sound like much but it's really a lot: he has to continue to assert himself as a leader.

By this I mean that my friend Garth has to have the courage to devise his plan, stick by it and fight to make sure no one - no one - runs any interference to cause him to deviate from the plan. In the wild world of sports, this is often more easily said than done.

First off, the notion that there weren't any discussions with the free agents who left last season? Positively false. There were negotiations with Blake, Smyth, Kozlov and Poti. Some ended earlier than others, some went to the last minute.

I don't think you could compare what will happen this July to last July. The Islanders were a playoff team in '06-07. Signings were made to advance that group, even with the departures. Some of the deals worked out OK, some not. In the cases of veterans like Guerin, Comrie and the injured Jon Sim, I would recommend reserving judgment until next season.

I agree with Garth's contention - reiterated at the event on Wednesday (I watched the ITV clips) - that the team has to go young. My personal belief is that for the New York Islanders on Long Island in a soon-to-be transformed arena property, the best way - possibly the only way - to build a true contender is through the draft and college and junior free agent signings. With Charles as the owner and the Coliseum project advancing, if you successfully draft, the kids will quickly learn to love the franchise and Long Island and you know the team will sign them long-term. The Islanders have shown a willingness to do that, in one case in landmark fashion.

Of course, at the proper time, you sprinkle in wise free agent signings. The kids can't do it alone.

Garth is going to be fine. Actually, he's going to be more than that. While I was at the game in Philadelphia last night, loving every second of the skill and passion on the ice, the sheer delirium in the stands, I thought a lot about how if the Islanders really stay patient, this could be them in a few years. Naturally, I'm biased, but I feel strongly Garth is the person to get it done.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Any questions?

As I get ready for the first leg of my 2008 Farewell Tour in Philadelphia, where it all began for me as an intern during the days of Propp, Kerr, Zezel, Poulin, Marsh, McCrimmon, Howe and Hexy, I thought I'd let you take over the blog.

GOT ANY QUESTIONS? Bring 'em on.

I'll leave that challenge open-ended. Queries can be on any subject. Can't guarantee I'll be able to answer every one. Definitely will not betray serious confidences of friends for a lifetime, but don't let that scare you. It's only hockey.

Let's see what you got. If nothing else, it will give me a good read on how many people are still logging on to this thing.

Please put all questions in the Comments area below. All of my responses will be on the blog over time. Thanks.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My tennis gig; Open House on Wednesday; Joanne Holewa

So I'm sitting outside by the tennis courts at the RVC Rec center around 4:00 today, that legal pad-of-dreams in hand while soaking in the sun. It was another good day - a writing assignment from a top hockey publication, extraordinary lunch with an Islanders connection, an invite to visit Philadelphia for Game 4, a nice nod from Sports Illustrated and more calls and emails with a generosity of spirit that eventually will lead me to uncontrollable sobbing.

It's that kind of perfect day. I'm feeling inspired, and tanned and trimmer than I really am. Then that daily dose of reality hits as a lovely older couple, dressed like Evert and Connors, approaches.

"Excuse me, sir, do we sign up for the tennis with you"?


I hope if you're still logging on to this blog occasionally, live in the area and have a spare hour or two, that you attend the second Open House the Islanders are hosting at the Coliseum. The team's website story has the rundown of events.

The Islanders providing at least a monthly peak behind-the-scenes at the Coliseum is a good thing, especially in a town - make that a country - where hockey is spoken only when your team is still playing. Like a home game, the energy from the crowd is what makes events like this work, so please support your team and my old friends and check it out.


Why I'm Still Rooting, Part 3 - Joanne Holewa

Joanne has been the deputy to every Islanders GM - Bill Torrey, Don Maloney, Mike Milbury, Neil Smith and Garth. This not only qualifies Joanne for the Hockey Hall of Fame, but also for sainthood.

She's got at least a couple of Stanley Cup rings and you could make the case that's plenty for any human being in one lifetime. But not Joanne. She deserves one more. At least.

When it came to learning how to perform with grace under pressure, Joanne Holewa was my teacher.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Podcast that wasn't

Very observant readers of this blog pointed out on message boards that the timing of my resignation was odd because just a little while earlier I had discussed the idea of doing an audio podcast with my staff.

Can't I just say I was dedicated to coming up with new stuff until the very end?

Maybe my bud/PR coordinator Corey Witt will keep the dream alive. It was Corey who did so much of the engineering legwork after I researched podcasts and thought it might be cool to do sort of an old-fashioned radio show right from our offices at the Coliseum.

As late as the day before my departure, I sent an email to Corey, JLock and Adam Baruch with some final assignments for our first podcast.

We had already completed four segments. On Friday, I recorded a Q & A with Garth Snow that I felt was something unique. Garth came into my office, where Corey set up a table in the middle with his laptop and a microphone. I asked Garth to just chat with me in a relaxed style, like our regular conversations every day. He did, and I'm proud of the end result. Among many highlights, Garth mentioned that he was trying to sign Swedish goalie Stefan Ridderwall, another one of the Islanders' solid picks in the 2006 draft. He said he'd love to get Ridderwall to Bridgeport as soon as possible. There was more, but...

Another "highlight" was JLock talking about the season finale at MSG, where he was verbally harrassed and pummelled with popcorn in the press box by those wild-and-crazy blue-seaters. Adam did an excellent segment on Robin Figren, proving he was a year off his internship with the San Antonio Spurs by pronouncing Regina, Sask. not to rhyme know. Corey had a fun take on the weeks ahead in Islanders Country, throwing in birthdays, team events and even a comedy show at whatever they call the Westbury Music Fair these days.

It was fun putting the podcast together and taking the time to learn something new with the guys. After a few shows, I would have hoped it would be fun and informative for the listeners, too.

Maybe the podcast-that-wasn't will make the Smithsonian someday. Okay, maybe not.


Why I'm Still Rooting, Part 2 - Ryan Jankowski

The 2006 Draft for the Islanders added Okposo, Joensuu, Figren, Marcinko, Ridderwall and probably a few other genuine prospects. The director of amateur scouting for the Islanders in 2006 was Ryan Jankowski, and Ryan will be running the draft next month.

Jankowski is whip-smart and one of the hardest-working scouts in the game. Most scouts are never home. RJ is never home. If the Islanders stick to their plan of primarily building from within - and I pray (while having every reason to believe) they will - Jankowski becomes one of the most important people in the team directory.

And, for me, one of the easiest to root for.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A surprise call at home

It was around 8:30 am last Monday that I wasn't feeling All Islanders. (I'm at about 80-90% right now and certain I'll get back to 100%, but just need a little time). I drove home and immediately went into Between-Jobs Cliche mode.

I told my wife, whom I think still doesn't believe me.

I went to the Rockville Centre library and drew up my plans for the next 20 years on a legal pad, all the while staying far away from that depressing area where they have the books about careers, how to build a resume and all that New Age crap.

I had my car inspected at the shop, running into a neighbor there who is also between jobs in the real world of banking.

I met my boy Tim Beach at Chili's at 2, then broke the news to Garth at the Coliseum at 3:30 and my staff an hour later. I then called as many of my close colleagues at the NYI as possible. Later that night, when it dawned on me Greg Logan might have something in Newsday, I called my mom and brother. Sources tell me my mom called my brother the next day for some sort of assurance I hadn't lost my mind. Nick tried his best to soothe her, I'm sure.

Tuesday was the Best. Day. Ever. A buddy of mine put it perfectly: "Man, you lived the dream - you got to watch your own funeral and hear people say great stuff about you."

That said, by the time I got home, I really just wanted to relax with my family and not think about it anymore. It had been an emotional 36 hours.

8:00 pm came and it was time for one of life's pleasures - sitting 5-on-a-bed with my wife and Luke, Cole and Aidan watching American Idol. Luke gives everyone a 10 out of 10 even if they stink. He's such a sweetheart, it never gets old. Syesha is singing "Proud Mary" - and looking spectacular, I might add - and suddenly...

The phone at the house rings. It has to be a frickin' telemarketer. Catherine, knowing I might lose it, takes the call.

"Chris, it's ___ (I'm protecting the name). He says he's an Islander fan, you've met him before and he just wants to wish you well."

I was in complete shock.

"Hey there. I did you get my home number"?

"You're listed."

I gathered myself and realized this is just a really nice person, and obviously an incredible Islanders fan, and I better stop acting like a doof.

He and I talked for a bit. I told him what I've told everyone: I really can't wait to sit in the Coli stands for a night and just watch a game with the Blackberry off.

A cynic could say that maybe the call is proof that I might have over-stayed my welcome at the NYI. I prefer to take it as just a real neat gesture.


It's just the darndest thing about ESPN: every time they have post-game press conference coverage, it's for one of the leagues they're partners with! Tonight, while superstar Sidney Crosby was at the podium after the Pens' Game 2 win in the Eastern Conference Final, I clicked over to ESPNews, which had a very detailed analysis of the NCAA women's college softball tournament. I'm going to save myself and y'all the time and go out on a limb and just declare it fact that those softball games are on ESPN.


Why I'm Still Rooting, Part 1 - Bruno Gervais

I was there the day Bruno was drafted and the day Milbury went out of his way to present him with his first pro contract because it was the kid's birthday. It says everything that I really don't need to tell any Islanders fan that Bruno's one of the best people around.

A few weeks before the Islanders surprised me by acknowledging my 20th anniversary in a pre-game ceremony, my wife - saying it was for Aidan's school project - asked me for my 3 favorite current Islanders. I said Ricky, Chris Campoli and Bruno. After all, Bruno has read at my kids' school (and about 100 other schools on Long Island). When Cole had his heart thing last April, Bruno called him more than a few times during the playoff hunt.

When Bruno skated over to the Zamboni corner with the Rolex, it all started to make sense. It was perfect.

Friday, May 9, 2008

To: Islandermania Re: My resignation

I don't know if I'll ever get into much detail about what led to my resignation on Monday, or whether it's important, or whether anyone cares.

But on Tuesday night I accepted an invitation from the moderators of Islandermania, the team's "official" fan message board, to attempt to set the record straight. As you will see, I didn't really do that, but took the opportunity to get a few things off my chest. For those of you not on Imania, here goes:

Letter to Islandermania: posted Tuesday, May 6 at 6:30 pm

Let me begin by stating for the record that I NEVER over-hyped an Islanders prospect, not even Justin Mapletoft.

I’m flattered that my thread on Islandermania is almost as long as the Joel Rechlicz discussion. More than that, the volume of kind words has been overwhelming. I’m going to print out the thread not just to keep for a personal pick-me-up, but to show to my wife. (“See, I’m really not so bad.”)

R.J. suggested I send a note and clear some stuff up. It was a good idea. To be a Long Island kid and get to work for the New York Islanders for 20 years, I’d have to be some special kind of jackass to leave with anything except good feelings.

To answer some of the questions and theories mentioned here and elsewhere…

Chris Dey is one of the kindest gentlemen I have met in this business. We had a major heart-to-heart recently and we decided together that it was best for me to find a second chapter to my career and for the Islanders to find someone else to give this gig a shot. It really was no deeper than that. The franchise, as it always has been, was first-class to me and my family.

On the surface it is so cheap and easy to take shots at Chris, as I have seen a bit here and a few places. Fact is, Chris is a great talent and - better still - a solid man and father. He deserves better than that. Please.

Some other questions…

Do I have another job lined up? I do not. First I have to decide what I want to do. I read on Imania that it’s a virtual slam dunk that after 20 years here my earning power has increased significantly. Very cool.

What will I miss the most in the office? Working with my staff. Working with game ops and events honcho Tim Beach, the best colleague any of us could ever ask for. Working with Garth Snow.

What am I going to do with my blog? Legally, I suppose I have to take down the Islanders logo. Other than that, I don’t know. THAT could be dangerous.

Charles Wang? Real simple. This message board is called Hamilton Blackberrymania if Charles isn’t the owner. It has been a privilege.

Who’s replacing me? I don’t know, but I’m sure it will be someone who “gets it.” Keep in mind that when it comes to Imania, it was Corey Witt who came to me and said, “I know this might sound crazy, but…” Blog Box doesn’t happen without Chris and Charles giving an enlightened thumbs-up. I’m proud of many things we accomplished, but I don’t have all the answers.

What would I do if I was granted one last act with the NYI? Although it’s very important for the franchise to keep moving forward in areas of marketing and communications, I would once and for all restore the jerseys the Islanders wore when they won four Stanley Cups. It wouldn’t be a step back, but rather simply the right thing to do.

I look forward to sitting in the stands with my three boys and enjoying a game. If you see me next season, I really hope you’ll stop by and say hello to a fellow Islanders fan. Don’t forget to let me know when the next tailgate is. Thanks for everything, Imaniacs.


And then on the fifth day, the rain came

After four days of emails, calls, blogs that made me sound far better than I am, and beautiful Long Island weather I can get oh-so-used to, I'm back at the Dell and ready to figure out what the heck I'm gonna do next.

I've decided to keep this blog alive a little longer. My revised goals for it are at left. Reasons for stopping it on July 7?

1. Taking it through the NHL draft and first week of free agency sounds about right.

2. I'm leaving on a trip - no, not one of those drinking and cultural jaunts where I'm gonna "find myself" - in mid-July.

3. Blogging on this particular subject beyond two months might be too time-consuming, get in the way of, you know, finding another job and, frankly, more than a little bit pathetic.

My hunch is that my posts will be shorter than the essay-type stuff I did during my final season with the Islanders. There will be some views on the Islanders and hockey, but it also might be a place to self-indulgently discuss my search and anything else that happens over the next two months.

Oh my Lord, I've become a real blogger.

It will be PG-13 at worst and may disappoint anyone looking for me to sling mud. I could have some constructive criticism, but I don't plan on airing any laundry or gripes. Of the latter, I do not have any.

Please use the comments section to publicly or privately make points, ask questions and offer career advice or, of course, careers.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Philadelphia Soul

Most people around the NHL are stunned that the Flyers got past Montreal in five games and are in the Conference Final. But I doubt any Islanders fans who were at the Coliseum on March 29 are surprised by Philadelphia's postseason run.

The display of tenacity the Flyers put on that night against the Islanders was remarkable. To recap, the Flyers had an emotional win the night before. They came to the Coliseum exhausted but in need of two points. Philadelphia started the game tight and the Islanders played like they had nothing to lose.

On top of that, Wade Dubielewicz was amazing in perhaps his best game as an Islander.

Nothing was going Philly's way. The Islanders went up 2-0 before the Flyers tied it in the second. Frans Nielsen scored to make it 3-2 midway through the third period, but Mike Richards willed a goal with 4:22 left to send the game into overtime. Daniel Briere beat Dubie for the shootout win.

I saw the Flyers coming off the ice and into the locker room. They didn't make much noise, no whooping and hollering. They looked like a team that had just taken care of business.

In the days after that Saturday night game, I raved about Philadelphia's performance to everyone I knew. This was one of the reasons I loved hockey. You just didn't see games won in other sports on sheer heart like the Flyers did. Final shots on goal: Islanders 30, Philadelphia 54.

No, I didn't come away from that game thinking the Flyers were going to win a Stanley Cup, but their success so far hasn't stunned me or anyone else watching closely - and with admiration - on March 29 at the Coliseum. Sure, the Flyers added talent when GM Paul Holmgren turned over the team starting around the 2007 trade deadline, but it's their work ethic that's made them a model franchise this year.