Friday, October 22, 2010

The Ying to My Yang. 5 Reasons to HATE the New York Islanders


This was seemingly written to completely contrast my article on why everyone should be an Islanders fan. Anyone who is, read on and sneer, as this is written for Rangers fans everywhere. Written in jest to fill one's quota or to get a paycheck, this is actually quite silly.


For those of you who have been living under a curling stone these past 38 years, the New York City area has another hockey team beside the New York Rangers. No, not the New Jersey Devils, I am talking about the New York Islanders.

The Islanders are, bar none, the worst team in the NHL. I know what you are thinking, "but, Ted, aren't the Islanders third in their conference while the Devils and Rangers languish at the bottom?" (Current standings) Yes, my friend, what you say is, unfortunately, true. However, that is why their poor record is only one item on my list of not two, not three, but five reasons to not only never support the Islanders, but why we should all actively root against them.

So, without further ado, I give you the list:

Reason One: They Suck

Let me to take care of some low-hanging fruit here. Simply put, the Islanders just aren't that great. Sure they had some good seasons in the early '80s (see Reason Two), but from then through the mid-'90s they ranged from mediocre to declining.

Then they got worse.

In fact, they are so bad they refer to the year they made (not won, made) the playoffs and did kinda sorta O.K. as the "Miracle of '93." If you need a miracle to lose the playoffs maybe you ought to rethink this whole hockey thing.
Since then they have not won a single playoff series, nor have they been division champions since the late '80s.

'Nuff said.

Reason Two: They Can Do Better

Nobody likes to beat up on lightweight. Where's the joy in rooting against the Detroit Lions, Texas Rangers, or anything from D.C.? You need a foe you can really sink your teeth into.

Allow me demonstrate. Enter "Texas 'Rangers Suck'" in Yahoo! and will get about 1,300 results. Search for "New York 'Mets suck'" and you get about 370,000. In fact, even the nonsensical "Texas 'Mets Suck'" returns about 3,000 hits!

Which brings me to the Islanders. Granted they stink now (see Reason One), but from '77 to '88 they won took six conference championships and six division titles. Not too shabby. Moreover, between 1980-83 they won the Stanley Cup four consecutive times. That ties them with Detroit (in the '50s) for the longest U.S. Stanley Cup dynasty. (Official list of Stanley Cup dynasties)

That means they can do better than their recent abysmal record, and until they do they're fair game!

Reason Three: Founded on Spite

Sports teams get founded for all kinds of reasons, but the Islanders stand out as being one of the few franchises started with the sole purpose of blocking another team.

Here's a history lesson. In 1972 Nassau County (Long Island, NY) had a nice shiny brand-new sports complex: the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The World Hockey Association—an upstart league that sought to challenge the NHL's supremacy in North America by building new franchises in cities that did not have hockey teams—wanted to put a team there, the New York Raiders.

But county officials did not think the WHA was "good enough" for Long Island. The only legal way to keep the Raiders out, however, was to have a franchise from the NHL.

Did NYC need another NHL team? Did they even want another NHL team? No, sir they did not. Nevertheless, in cahoots with the league (who wanted to crush the fledgling WHA) the county obtained a new franchise and even paid a $4 million territorial fee to the Rangers for the privilege. (Full story on

Thus the Islanders were born.

So to recap, the Islanders were founded (a) to give Long Island a team of its own (b) to keep major league hockey competitive in the U.S. or (c) to block a team and upstart league that wanted to do both (a) and (b)? If you said (c) move to the front of the class, if you said (a) or (b) you probably already root for the Islanders.

Reason Four: Poor Management

Just as it is no fun to boo a team that has no chance, it is also no fun to boo a team constrained by factors beyond its control. Take, for example, the Oakland A's. The A's aren't bad because they stink so much as because they're an under-funded team in a crummy complex in a run-down city.

Not so the Islanders. They are in a hole entirely of their own digging. From 1992 to 1994, manager Don Maloney sat on his butt and did pretty much nothing. Suddenly, in 1995 he decided to "save" the team by trading core players like Turgeon, Malakhov, and Hogue for mediocre ones like Eric Fichaud, an unproven rookie who would never really pan out. (New York Times Sports Section)

Then in 1996 John Spano agreed to buy the team from longtime owner John Pickett for $165 million. The only problem: Spano was a swindler who didn't have the dough. How did he get away with such fraud? Did he bribe the banks? Counterfeit bills? Well, not really, Pickett and the NHL only spent a few hundred bucks checking his background and let him buy on credit. Hey Islanders, I got a bridge to sell ya!

With a record like this there should be no pity and no mercy for the poor devils (no offense, Jersey!)

Reason Five: New York Rivalry

Because hockey divisions are regional, the Islanders, Rangers, and Devils all play in the same family. This means they get to duke it out six times a year, plus an increased likelihood of meeting in the playoffs.
Compare that with the Jets and the Giants who only play each other once every four years. Even the Mets-Yankees rivalry, where they face off for a few games during the long baseball season—games that didn't even count for anything until Bud Selig and MLB allowed interleague play—does not really compare to the battle royal that is New York hockey.

There's almost 40 years of history between the Rangers and Islanders, all the way back to that $4 million dollar kickback (see Reason Three). That has been plenty of time for the personal feuds, competing fan bases, and rivalry to build up that make for great spectatorship and great fan culture. (An editorial on Lighthouse Hockey also makes this argument). All these variables come together to make New York Hockey the best local rivalry in the country, so wherever you live get involved in it!

Conclusion, Personal Testimony

The mere fact that I of all people have written this list (and didn't even need a Long Island joke to do it!) is testament to the Islanders' impressive hatability.

First, I don't live in New York anymore. The fact that I still want to see them crushed by the Devils and Rangers tells you how fun it is to hate the Islanders.

Second, hockey isn't even my number one sport. Unquestionably the thrill of a live hockey game puts any other sport to shame, but I just don't find it as fun to follow as baseball. So if even I, a hockey fan of middling rabidness can find room in my heart for a grudge against the islanders, anyone can.

Happy hating!


Gah. I respect anyone decision to have loyalties, but this was just stupid.


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