Islander Fans' Civil War

There’s a battle raging on with the hockey team from Nassau.  Unfortunately it has nothing to do with playoff races, games on the ice or “X’s and O’s.”  No.  This battle goes beyond the ice, into the decrepit seats of the Coliseum, into the parking lot and onto the streets.  It’s the battle between all those who bleed orange and blue.  The battle of the “glass half full’s” and “glass half empty’s.”  Our own civil war. (Photo credit: Hazboy/flickr).

First things first.  Islander fans, young and old, male and female, New Yorker and everyone else, want the same thing.  We want our team to win.  We’re no different than the 29 other fanbases (yes, including the Rangers’) that want nothing more than to watch their favorite team skate off the ice each night with two points in their pocket.  We want to be playing hockey come late April.  And we want to watch our team skate around the rink hoisting that silver chalice in June.

But reality smacks us in the face.  More often than not, we don’t get to see our favorite team skate off the ice with two points in their pocket. We won’t be playing hockey come late April.  And we won’t be watching our team skate around the rink hoisting that silver chalice in June.  Thirty-one years and counting.    

So to no one’s surprise, frustration has boiled over and the line has been drawn.  On one side, the “glass half full’s.”  The optimists.  The “support the team at all costs.” The “wait til the kids on the farm come up”-ites.  The “be patient, it’s all part of the plan”-ites.  On the other side, the “glass half empty’s.”  The pessimists.  The “anti-ownership” group.  The “we haven’t won a playoff series in 21 years” contingent.  The “we deserve better” ones. 

And oh how the battles have raged on.  Search “#islestwitter” and you’re likely to see dozens of conversations, insults, and arguments being thrown around.  Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, blogs, and all the such have become the “skirmishes” of the larger battle between the two groups. 

The battle even spilled over into “real life” Saturday night as a group of fans fed up with the team organized a protest which involved a large gathering and several audible chants of “Snow Must Go” and the like during the first two periods of the game against the Sabres.  The problem?  Members of the other side organized their “protest the protestors” brigade which attempted to counter the protestors by drowning out the anti-Islanders’ chants.  At the end of the day, the protestors were able to draw attention to the team’s plight from several major outlets and various social media forums.  Mission accomplished.

Why though?  Why attack the organization? How can they not support the team?

The “ownership” side has its arguments.  The team is young and key pieces are still developing.   After years of being stonewalled by local politicians, Charles Wang helped secure a long-term future for the Islanders in the area (albeit, in Brooklyn).  Snow struck gold several times with waiver wire pick-ups of Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner.  John Tavares is a true franchise center.  Kyle Okposo has blossomed into a true first-line winger.  The team’s farm system has been lauded for being among the league’s best.  All great points.

The “anti-ownership” side…what do they say?  Well, how much time do you got?

The team is on pace to finish out of the playoffs 6 of the last 7 years.  The team is on pace for another lottery appearance as Garth Snow continues his role as “veteran of the lottery process.”  The team perennially is among the lowest payrolls in the league and probably should thank the cap floor it’s not lower.  Snow failed to address the team’s biggest hole last summer, instead opting for another season of the Evgeni Nabakov-Kevin Poulin-Anders Nilsson pu pu platter in net.  Fifteen-year contracts for goalies (see DiPietro, Rick).  Trading for retired goalies and their phantom cap hits (see Thomas, Tim).  Re-signing Josh Bailey to a five-year contract.  Wasting precious dollars on “veteran” leaders such as Brian Rolston, Steve Staois, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.  Completely botching the Thomas Vanek situation, from the “leak” of a rejected contract offer to the deadline deal which brought back a less-than-impressive return.  Getting lambasted by the Canadian media and having the organization compared to a tire fire (which is probably more insulting to the tire fire at this point).  The list goes on and on. (Photo credit: Hockey32090/flickr)

Look, fans have every right support their favorite team anyway they want.  Whether they buy tickets, wear their favorite jersey, read up on their favorite prospect, or any other of the thousand ways to support the team, it’s their right and they should do what makes them happy.  After all, hockey is just entertainment.

But fans also have the right to be angry when things are bad.  They have the right to expect a good return on their investment, financially and emotionally, into the team. They have the right to have their favorite team’s General Manager explain what went so wrong and what will be done to improve things in the future.  They have the right to expect ownership to demand better from the people he employs.  None of those demands seems too outrageous.

Where this battle takes us, no one knows.  But let’s just hope we’re all around at the end to see it.  Remember, we’re all Islanders, right? 

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