Sunday, November 4, 2007


The Islanders are often criticized as an organization that holds on to the past with too firm a grip, relying too heavily on promoting its "Dynasty Years" at the expense of the here and now. So I understood when some categorized the decision to invite Al Arbour back to coach his 1500th game with the team as a mere publicity move, another attempt to capitalize on the rich history of the Islanders. Personally, I took no exception to the decision, but honestly figured it would just be another game with a nice little post-game ceremony to remind us all of greater times.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Within the 60 minutes of the game, the team played with greater intensity than I've seen in a while. Everyone was skating (even ignoring of his two goals, when is the last time we saw Satan hustle like that?), finishing their checks, and playing with what can only be defined using the greatest of sports cliches - heart. I heard several people sitting near me echo my own thoughts, that the game had a playoff-like feeling to it. Even when the Isles were trailing 2-0, I felt like the team was playing great hockey. I felt like they were going to win the game. After Satan scored the go ahead goal and the final 2:41 ticked off the clock, it felt like the perfect ending to a fantastic game. Who knew that the real excitement hadn't even begun.

The post game ceremony was executed perfectly. I've been in attendance for many similar tributes over the years, but none came close to the feeling in the Coliseum on Saturday night. In speaking to a few people who watched it on TV, I'm glad to hear that it translated well even for those who weren't there for the live experience. It was also great to see the vast majority of the sell-out crowd stay for the ceremony. I doubt that many, if any, regretted staying.

At the conclusion of the ceremony we made our way down the tunnel to the press conference room. The atmosphere around the locker room was one I've never experienced before. Certainly part of that was due to the number of all time greats and fan favorites around every corner - Bossy, Lafontaine, Trottier, Gillies, Cairns, Webb, and Torrey to name a few. But more than that, it was the reaction of all of these men to the night. To a man, they all had huge smiles and could be heard sharing stories about Arbour and their feelings on the night.

If there was still any doubt as to what the night meant to these guys, Clark Gillies, Jean Potvin, and Ted Nolan erased it. As I walking to the press conference room, Gillies walked up next to me and announced to no one in particular that he absolutely needed to go watch Arbour's conference. He was smiling like a kid on Christmas morning standing amidst the media watching Al talk about the night. Not to be outdone, Jean Potvin (who entered the room a bit later) started climbing across folding chairs, ultimately settling with one leg on a chair and one on a locker bench to ensure he had a great view of his old coach. When Nolan entered the room, he was smiling wider than I've seen after a game. Normally extremely quiet during his post game comments, after this particular game he could be heard even by those standing in the back of the room.

When I finally left, over an hour after the game had ended, there were still dozens of hockey legends in the hallways sharing stories and talking about Al Arbour. Let the critics say what they will, THIS is how you honor tradition.


Anonymous said...

Steve Webb!! Steve Webb!!

Anonymous said...

The third period for the Isles has been inspiring. We are not loosing leads and we are scoring to win. Early in the season but visions of the CUP.

Anonymous said...

Right on the mark. A great night!