Islanders moving from one of my old neighborhoods to another one of my old neighborhoods

Here are some jokes I already tweeted. Sorry to repeat myself but it’s really all I’ve got: Brooklyn makes so much sense for the Islanders because the best way to appreciate the Islanders is ironically.

I’ve read a lot about how the Barclays Center is unfit for hockey. What I failed to consider: Neither is Nassau Coliseum.

Seriously, though — and not-tweeted-yet: Good for all us kind-of, sort-of Islanders fans who hang out within a few blocks of the Barclays Center pretty frequently and like going to live sporting events even if we don’t really follow the team that closely. And good for the Islanders for finding a way out of Nassau Coliseum. And good for anyone who works in the vicinity of Nassau Coliseum — my mom included — for not having to suffer the traffic anymore.

Presumably very bad for the franchisee of that one McDonald’s.

Despite growing up about 10 minutes from Nassau Coliseum, I never really took to the Islanders. But I had some great times at Islanders games there regardless. One time I was at Dental Hygiene Awareness night with my brother when play had to be stopped twice due to Dental Hygiene Awareness posters turned into paper airplanes.

After college, a couple of my friends and I discovered the Islanders offered half-price student discounts on Tuesday nights and that our college IDs were still valid. We were all living at home after graduating, mind you, and I think we were all getting a little tired of the arrangement. So even though none of us followed hockey, we’d go to Islanders games every Tuesday night and take out our frustration by booing nearly everything that happened. Also: Eating tons of nachos.

Don’t sleep on the Nassau Coliseum nachos.

Nassau County voters fail to support hockey team that Nassau County citizens never seem eager to watch play

Nassau County voters rejected a referendum to invest taxpayer money in a $400 million overhaul of Nassau Coliseum and its environs. We’ll see what the Islanders do from here, I suppose, and on one hand it’s sad to think this could end with the club leaving for greener pastures. But as the son of a Nassau Community College professor dealing with the fallout from rampant budget cuts, I find it hard to get too broken up about the fate of a woefully mismanaged hockey team that can’t draw well in such a densely populated area.

Literally HUNDREDS of Nassau County bigwigs to end months of “intense media speculation”

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano will be joined by hundreds of local business, community and labor leaders on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in announcing a major Economic Development and Job Creation Plan to build a world-class sports-entertainment destination center. After months of intense media speculation, the County Executive will also announce plans to pursue the construction of an Indian gaming casino.

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, press release.

Well there’s just a ton here.

First off, it’s worth noting that Nassau County executives absolutely love pomp, circumstance and press releases. When I was in high school I won some stupid award for something stupid, and I swear we got a press release announcing that some county politician was coming to present the award, then afterward a second press release announcing that he came and presented the award, then later a signed 8×10″ black-and-white photo of me with the dude. It’s somewhere in my parents’ attic now, unless they threw in out in one of their biannual stuff-no-one-needs purges. For all I know it could have been Edward Mangano.

Anyway, I hope this guy Mangano is actually “joined by hundreds of local business, community and sportsbet leaders” to announce whatever plans are so important that they merit capitalization. That’d be something to see: some 200 suits  set up behind podiums while two reporters from Newsday and some guy representing all the Herald papers sit in an otherwise empty conference room, anxiously biting their nails and tapping pencils on notebooks, desperate to learn whatever it is that the county is doing to quiet all the speculating they’ve been doing.

It should be noted that I got this release through the New York Islanders, which really calls into question the use of the phrase “world-class.” The Islanders, you may know, have finished dead last in their division for four seasons running and shut out a member of the Professional Hockey Writers of America (and the blog network, to boot) from covering their team for entirely nebulous reasons.

But I suppose it is possible that the new “sports-entertainment destination center” planned for Nassau County will be world-class even if the team playing inside it is not, and at least there will also be a nearby Indian casino for betting against the Islanders.

To the Quebecois coming to Nassau Coliseum tomorrow

Dear Sirs and Madams:

I hope you read English because my French is quite limited. I support your efforts to return NHL hockey to Quebec. I don’t know any of the politics or economics behind it, but to me it’s b.s. that the Nordiques even left in the first place, because obviously Canada is for hockey (and vice versa), and because the Nordiques had a sweet logo that I have on a t-shirt somewhere. I don’t follow hockey much, but I’ll admit it’s a pretty sweet sport. And I know that the Islanders suck and don’t draw well, and that often when I turn on an N.H.L. game I see teams I’ve never heard of before. Has Columbus, Ohio really had a professional hockey team since 2000? Did I just miss that entirely?

Anyway, on behalf of Long Island, Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, my longtime home, I welcome you to Uniondale. My advice to you is to spend as little of your time in the area in Uniondale, though inevitably you will spend hours on your way into and out of the Nassau Coliseum’s parking lot,  no matter how few people attend the game. I think more people park there than actually go inside. No one can really explain it.

You’ll probably want to eat while you’re in the area. If you have access to a car, drive west down Hempstead Turnpike and gawk at our amazing array of fast food fried-chicken purveyors. But resist the temptation to stop at the Popeye’s, the first KFC, the Kennedy Fried Chicken or the second KFC, and drive all the way down to the very end of the Chicken Strip. There you’ll find Wings N’ Things, the best option for a truly local experience. If you’ve got enough friends with you, I recommend their 80-piece bucket, which is actually on the menu.

And if you’re really looking to sample the best of local cuisine, take a left on Henry St. and proceed south. (I should note now that the drinking age in the United States is 21, so if you have anyone younger than that interested in purchasing alcohol, you might want to stop by Henry Street Liquors, a strange pocket of apparently independent territory where those restrictions are not enforced. You’ll see the big yellow sign.)

Henry Street becomes Baldwin Road and eventually Grand Avenue. On your left, you’ll see a shopping center with an Associated Supermarket. There’ll you’ll find Ferring Deli, one of the area’s very best, plus a good pizzeria and Jamaican bakery. Enjoy. If you pass another KFC, you’ve gone too far.

Enjoy your stay on Long Island, and feel free to take the Islanders with you.


Islanders making the Knicks look like the Yankees

With a little more than a quarter of the season gone, the Islanders have the fewest points in the N.H.L. and have fired their coach, Scott Gordon. Attendance at the Coliseum — one of the oldest arenas in the N.H.L. — has averaged 10,773, down 11 percent from last season, as fans react to the team’s poor play and management’s decision to raise ticket prices almost 20 percent this season. Only the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes have drawn fewer fans.

The Islanders continue to be weighed down by misguided draft picks and bloated contracts. Their highest-paid player, Rick DiPietro, has struggled with injuries since signing a 15-year deal in 2006. Josh Bailey, their first-round draft pick in 2008, who has scored just 26 goals in 159 N.H.L. games, was sent to the minors last week.

Off the ice, the Islanders have no president or chief of amateur scouting. They revoked the credentials of a popular blogger who covers the team, and their television announcer, Howie Rose, was inadvertently caught on a broadcast venting about the team’s poor play. This season, the team decided to have its games broadcast on a college radio station.

Ken Belson and Dave Caldwell, New York Times.

What an embarrassment. Read the whole Times article, there was no one excerpt I could choose to fully convey how damning it is. And I guess I shouldn’t rip the Islanders if I ever hope to get press credentials at the Nassau Coliseum, but the way it is now, I can’t imagine any situation in which I’d want to go watch the Islanders anyway.

It’s a shame because technically the Islanders are my favorite hockey team. And for a while I thought I might get into hockey. I do really appreciate the sport, I loved playing roller hockey on the street in high school, and the Islanders play about a ten-minute drive from where I grew up.

When I moved back home after college, my friends and I had almost nothing to do, so we would occasionally go to Islanders games. Problem was they sucked then, like they suck now, and yet the tickets were still way too expensive, even for the cheap seats. They had student discounts on Tuesday nights, but even then the Coliseum would be empty.

According to the article, the Islanders are keeping two former players on the payroll just to meet the league’s salary minimum. I hadn’t heard that. That’s crazy. You play in New York. Yes, your arena is a hole and the traffic sucks and there’s no way to get there on the LIRR, but it’s situated within walking distance of two colleges and there are 800,000 people in the Town of Hempstead alone.

Islanders pull blogger’s credentials

The NHL has left it up to the teams to determine their own policies on bloggers, and the Islanders are using that wide breadth of a policy to make a determination on Botta. The other problem for Botta, or any writer in the Nassau press box that runs afoul of team management, is that the Islanders’ press credentials clearly indicate the team has the right to pull them at its discretion.

And Botta is a journalist, in the estimation of the PHWA, which has gone to bat for him in this dispute. Sure, there may have been complaints about Botta by the Islanders that go beyond content and speak to behavior or some violation of decorum. (We’ve heard Botta’s speaking to players outside of designated interview areas was an issue raised, which is by no means a credential-losing sin.)

Those problems are minor, and could be hashed out without a “nuclear option.” So this is essentially an issue of censorship, of undermining an important voice in the Islanders media and fan communities.

Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into this since it’s far from settled, Chris Botta is a member of the family, and I don’t want to ruffle any more feathers than have already been ruffled. But a couple of people have asked me why the press hasn’t shown more outrage over this, and I’m not sure that it’s even necessary.

No coverage of the dispute portrays the Islanders in a favorable light, because it’s difficult to see how they’re not shooting themselves in the foot by shutting him out. Botta provides better coverage of the Islanders than anybody. Denying him access to the club only further alienates an already-withering fanbase.

The actual job part of my job includes a decent amount of advocating to get professional bloggers credentialed. I have had no role in Botta’s issue with the Islanders, but I’ve spent plenty of time trying to convince media-relations departments to allow our bloggers to cover their teams from the inside. To me, as long as the content is professional, there should be no distinction between a “blogger” and a “columnist,” since those are just words.

Some teams are way cooler about it than others. The Knicks, for example, have been extremely obliging.

Islanders forging new ground in hockey team/cupcake relations

The New York Islanders announced today the addition of a new corporate partner in the unique sponsorship category of cupcakes. The Islanders have signed an agreement to designate Cupcake Gourmet, Inc. as the official cupcake supplier of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the New York Islanders Hockey Club.

“To be the official cupcake supplier of the Islanders and Nassau Coliseum is huge to me,” Amy Brady, Owner of Cupcake Gourmet, Inc. said. “I fell in love with the team when I moved to Long Island 15 years ago and to be a part of their world feels great.”

Justin Johnson, Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships & Marketing for the Islanders said: “We are thrilled to launch this partnership with Amy and Cupcake Gourmet as we continually enhance the everyday menu board for our fans.”

– New York Islanders press release.

For the Internet

Whenever I hazily remember something now, I look to the Internet for confirmation or corroboration. It’s bothersome, then, when there is no online evidence of something I am certain happened. This story came up a couple of weeks ago while I was making paper airplanes with my 2-year-old nephew. I pursued it later and found nothing, though I didn’t even know where to start with search terms. Like I said, my memory of the event is hazy, but in the interest of getting it documented, here’s what I remember:

During what I believe was the 1990-91 NHL season, I went to an Islanders game with my brother and a couple of friends. We were never huge hockey fans, but we grew up about 10 minutes from Nassau Coliseum and wound up going to Islanders games a few times a season. The Isles’ run of early-80s greatness came before I appreciated sports, but in the late part of the decade they added a couple of ruthless goons we liked to go see, Mick Vukota and Ken Baumgartner.

This particular night was Dental Hygiene Awareness night, and at the door they gave everyone small posters — probably about 17 x 11 inches — to celebrate the event. The posters were glossy and printed on good, sturdy stock, and featured an Islander with a man-sized turquoise toothbrush.

I want to say it was Pat LaFontaine, but I’m almost certain it wasn’t — we would have been more excited about it if it were LaFontaine, since he was the Isles’ main dude then. I’m pretty sure it was some complementary Isle, like Pat Flatley or Brent Sutter. All I know for sure is he was standing there with an enormous toothbrush on a poster begging to be framed in kid-friendly dentists’ offices everywhere.

By the second period, the Isles were getting their asses kicked, as they were wont to do back then (see also: now). I can’t remember the score or who they were playing.

But crystal clear in my memory is the sight of a single dental-hygiene-awareness-poster airplane floating lazily down from the Coliseum’s upper levels and onto the ice. It touched down between the blue lines, just shy of the faceoff circle, away from the action but prominently enough for everyone in the arena to notice it.

Within minutes, the ice was blanketed in paper airplanes. Everybody in the Coliseum got into the act. There were trick planes and gliders and all sorts of fancy origami creations, but mostly the standard dart-style plane, only bigger and stronger thanks to the medium. The suckers were flying everywhere, a swarm of tartar-control locusts wildly descending on the rink. Not all the planes made it to the ice on first flight, but fans all over the arena were happy to relaunch the ones that didn’t. We started with four posters, but between us we must have thrown 15 onto the ice. Bedlam.

The refs stopped play and the P.A. announcer begged fans to stop throwing foreign objects onto the ice, and also asked fans to report anyone they saw doing so. I remember a funny guy a few rows ahead of us standing up and pointing in every which direction. There was no way to single out the instigators; it was an arena-wide mutiny against crappy hockey, and, presumably, dogmatic proponents of dental hygiene.

Eventually, a cleanup crew cleared the ice and the Isles prepared to resume play. Then came the part I wasn’t expecting: Moments after the horn sounded and play started up again, another round of airplanes immediately swooped down and covered the ice. Whoom. The second set felt more premeditated, nastier. They came from the fans who actually thought to hang onto their airplanes for a chance to interrupt play again, a group that apparently had more arm strength or better aim than the general arena populace. The second wave of planes almost universally reached the ice.

The refs stopped play again, the cleanup crew again cleared the ice, and from there, the teams played mostly uninterrupted hockey. A few more planes trickled onto the rink later in the game, but there weren’t enough posters left in fans’ hands to stop play again.

That happened. I’m sketchy on the details, but I wanted to make sure the Internet knew about it.