- New York Islanders
New York Islanders 2011-12 New York Islanders season Conference Eastern Division Atlantic Founded 1972 History New York Islanders
Home arena Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum City Uniondale, New York Colors Royal Blue, Orange, White, Black Media MSG Plus
WRHU Sports (88.7 FM)
Owner(s) Charles Wang General manager Garth Snow Head coach Jack Capuano Captain Mark Streit Minor league affiliates Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) Stanley Cups 4 (1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83) Conference championships 6 (1977-78, 1978-79, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84) Presidents' Trophies 0 Division championships 6 (1977–78, 1978–79, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1983–84, 1987-88)
The New York Islanders are a professional ice hockey team based in Uniondale, New York. They are members of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Islanders are one of three NHL franchises in the New York City metropolitan area along with the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers, the latter of whom the Islanders maintain a rivalry with, known as the Battle of New York.
The team was founded in 1972 during the 1972–73 NHL season as part of a bid to keep the rival World Hockey Association out of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the Islanders have played since their founding. The Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships between 1980 and 1983, the eighth of the nine dynasties recognized by the NHL in its history. However the team has not won a division title since 1989–90, and their last playoff series win was during the 1992–93 NHL season. The future of the team, according to many commentators, depends on the success of the Lighthouse Project development plan, which would include a new arena for the Islanders.
Eight former members of the Islanders have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, seven of whom—Al Arbour, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bill Torrey and Bryan Trottier—were members of all four Cup winning teams. Pat LaFontaine was the most recent inductee, having been honored in 2003.
1972–74: The NHL comes to Long Island
With the impending start of the World Hockey Association (WHA) in the fall of 1972, the upstart league had plans to place its New York team, the Raiders, in the then brand-new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Nassau County. However, Nassau County officials did not consider the WHA a major league and wanted nothing to do with the upstart Raiders. Since the only legal way to keep the Raiders out of the Coliseum was to get an NHL team to play there, William Shea, who had helped bring the New York Mets to the area a decade earlier, was pressed into service once again. Shea found a receptive ear in NHL president Clarence Campbell, though the New York Rangers did not want the additional competition in the New York area. So, despite having expanded to 14 teams just two years before, the NHL hastily awarded a Long Island-based franchise to clothing manufacturer Roy Boe, owner of the American Basketball Association's New York Nets. A second expansion franchise was awarded to Atlanta (the Flames) at the same time to balance the schedule.
The new team was widely expected to take the Long Island Ducks name used by an Eastern Hockey League franchise; the more geographically expansive "New York Islanders" came largely as a surprise. The fledgling Islanders, who were soon nicknamed the "Isles" by the local newspapers, had an extra burden to pay in the form of a $4 million territorial fee to the nearby New York Rangers. The arrival of the Islanders effectively doomed the Raiders; they were forced to play in Madison Square Garden under onerous lease terms and were forced out of town in the middle of their second season.
While the Islanders secured veteran forward Ed Westfall from the Boston Bruins in the 1972 NHL Expansion Draft, junior league star Billy Harris in the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft, and a few other respectable players, several other draftees jumped to the WHA. Unlike most other expansion teams' general managers, Islanders GM Bill Torrey did not make many trades for veteran players in the early years. Rather than pursue a "win now" strategy of getting a few veterans to boost attendance (a tactic which proved disastrous for many teams in the long run), Torrey was committed to building through the draft.
In the team's first season, young players such as goaltender Billy Smith (the team's second pick in the expansion draft) and forwards Bob Nystrom and Lorne Henning were given chances to prove themselves in the NHL. However, this young and inexperienced expansion team posted a record of 12–60–6, one of the worst in NHL history.
The team who finished last in 1972–73 received the right to pick first in the 1973 amateur draft and select junior superstar defenseman Denis Potvin, who had been touted "as the next Bobby Orr" when he was 13. Despite several trade offers from Montreal Canadiens' GM Sam Pollock, Torrey refused to part with the pick. That same summer, Torrey made perhaps the most critical move in the history of the franchise when he convinced former St. Louis Blues coach Al Arbour to come to Long Island. Even with Potvin, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie Of The Year, the team still finished last in the East in its second year. Under Arbour, the team showed signs of respectability. Although the team did not make the playoffs, they allowed 100 fewer goals than the previous season, and their 56 points represented a healthy 26-point improvement from the previous season. It turned out to be the team's last losing season for 15 years.
In 1975, the Islanders made one of the biggest turnarounds in NHL history. Led by Potvin, forwards Westfall, Harris, Nystrom, Clark Gillies, and goaltenders Smith and Glenn "Chico" Resch, the Islanders earned 88 points — 32 more than the previous season, and two more than their first two seasons combined — and earned their first playoff berth. They stunned the rival New York Rangers in a best-of-3 first-round series. The Islanders won the series in the third game as J. P. Parise scored just 11 seconds into the extra session.
In the next round, an even bigger surprise occurred. Down three games to none in the best-of-seven series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders rallied to win the next four and take the series. Only three other major North American professional sports teams have accomplished this feat, the 1941–42 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 2004 Boston Red Sox (from the Major League Baseball), and the 2009–10 Philadelphia Flyers. In the third round of the playoffs, the Islanders nearly did it again, rallying from another 3–0 deficit to force a seventh game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers before the Flyers took the decisive seventh game at home and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Islanders continued their stunning climb up the NHL standings in 1975–76, earning 101 points, the fifth-best record in the league. It was the first 100-point season in Islanders history, in only their fourth year of existence. Rookie center Bryan Trottier, who scored 95 points and won the Calder Trophy, was blossoming into a superstar. It would be the first of four consecutive 100-point seasons, including the first two division titles in franchise history.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, regular-season success was not rewarded in the playoffs. In 1976 and 1977, the Islanders were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens were 24–3 in the playoffs in those two years — all three losses were to the Islanders.
In the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Torrey had the 15th pick and had to make a tough decision between right winger Mike Bossy and another forward. Bossy was known as a scorer who was not physical, while the other forward could check but was not very good offensively. Coach Arbour persuaded Torrey to pick Bossy, figuring it was easier to teach a scorer how to check. In the upcoming 1977-78 season, Bossy became the third Islander to win the Calder Trophy, having scored 53 goals that season, at the time the most scored by a rookie. The team was upset in the quarterfinal round in overtime of game 7 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In 1978–79, the team finished with the best record in the NHL. Bryan Trottier was voted the league MVP and captured the scoring title, while sophomore Bossy scored 69 goals, which also led the league. Despite their regular season dominance, the Islanders exited the playoffs with a loss to the New York Rangers in the semifinals, after which original team captain and star Ed Westfall - who had surrendered the captaincy to Clark Gillies the season before - retired. Hockey professionals and journalists generally regarded the Rangers as an inferior team, which led them to question whether the Islanders were capable of winning big games in the playoffs when they really counted.
Off the ice, the Islanders were on shaky ground. Boe was losing money on both the Islanders and the Nets even as the Islanders quickly surged to NHL prominence and the Nets became an ABA power. The Islanders were still far behind on the $10 million they had paid in startup costs, and the expenses associated with moving the Nets to the NBA threw Boe's finances into a tailspin. Eventually, Boe was forced to sell both his teams. He readily found a buyer for the Nets, but had less luck finding one for the Islanders. Torrey orchestrated a sale to one of the team's limited partners, John Pickett, who made Torrey team president. Soon after buying the Islanders, Pickett signed a very lucrative cable contract with the fledgling Sportschannel network. SportsChannel's owner, Charles Dolan, thought the up-and-coming team would be a perfect centerpiece for his new network. Dolan gave Pickett a long-term guaranteed contract intended to not only keep the team on Long Island, but give area governments an incentive to renew his cable contracts. The Islanders have been on the network, now known as MSG Plus, for over a quarter-century.
1980–84: The Dynasty
After the Islanders' regular season dominance and playoff disappointment in 1979, Arbour decided that he would no longer concern himself too greatly with his team's finish in the regular season. Instead, he focused his team's energy on how they would perform in the playoffs. In 1980, the Islanders dropped below the 100-point mark for the first time in five years, earning only 91 points. However, they finally broke through and won the Stanley Cup.
Before the playoffs, Torrey made the difficult decision to trade longtime and popular veterans Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings for second line center Butch Goring. Goring's is often called the "final piece of the puzzle": a strong two-way player, his presence on the second line ensured that opponents would no longer be able to focus their defensive efforts on the Islanders' first line of Bossy, Trottier and Clark Gillies. Contributions from new teammates, such as wingers Duane Sutter and Anders Kallur and stay-at-home defensemen Dave Langevin, Gord Lane and Ken Morrow (the latter fresh off a gold medal win at the 1980 Olympics), also figured prominently in the Islanders' playoff success.
In the semifinals, the Islanders faced the Buffalo Sabres, who had finished second overall in the NHL standings. The Islanders won the first two games in Buffalo, including a 2-1 victory in game two on Bob Nystrom's goal in double overtime. They went on to win the series in six games and reach the finals for the first time in franchise history, where they would face the NHL's regular season champions, the Philadelphia Flyers, who had gone undefeated for 35 straight games (25–0–10) during the regular season. In game one in Philadelphia, the Islanders won 4–3 on Denis Potvin's power-play goal in overtime. Leading the series 3–2, they went home to Long Island for game six. In that game, Bob Nystrom continued his overtime heroics, scoring at 7:11 of the extra frame, on assists by John Tonelli and Lorne Henning, to bring Long Island its first Stanley Cup. As of 2010[update], this is the most recent Stanley Cup clinching game won in overtime by the home team. It was also the Islanders' sixth overtime victory of the playoffs. Bryan Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. Torrey's strategy of building through the draft turned out very well; nearly all of the major contributors on the 1980 champions were home-grown Islanders or had spent most of their NHL careers in the Islanders organization. The Islanders were the first NHL team to win a Stanley Cup (in 1980) with Europeans (Stefan Persson, Anders Kallur) on its roster.
The Islanders dominated the next two seasons. Bossy scored 50 goals in 50 games in 1981 and the Islanders lost only three playoff games en route to defeating the Minnesota North Stars in five games to win the Stanley Cup. Butch Goring won the Conn Smythe Trophy. During their semifinal sweep of the Rangers, Islander fans began taunting the Rangers with a chant of "1940!" – referring to the Rangers' last Stanley Cup win in 1940. Fans in other NHL cities soon picked up the chant.
In 1981–82 the Islanders won a then-record 15 straight games en route to a franchise-record 118 points, while Mike Bossy set a scoring record for right wingers with 147 points in an 80 game schedule. The Islanders won the regular-season title, yet once in the playoffs, they were pushed to the maximum five games by the Pittsburgh Penguins and to six games by the Rangers. However, they finally hit their stride in the conference finals, sweeping the upstart Quebec Nordiques and won the Stanley Cup over the Cinderella story Vancouver Canucks in a four-game sweep. In this series, which was the first ever coast-to-coast Stanley Cup Final, Bossy, upended by a check from Tiger Williams and falling parallel to the ice, managed to hook the puck with his stick and score. Bossy netted the Stanley Cup-winning goal and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The next year, although the Islanders had won three straight Stanley Cups, more attention was being paid to the upstart Edmonton Oilers, whose young superstar Wayne Gretzky had just shattered existing scoring records. The 1982–83 season was thus a battle to decide which was the best team in the NHL. The Oilers had a better regular season, but the Islanders swept them in the Stanley Cup finals to win their fourth straight championship. Billy Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the Playoffs after shutting down the Oilers' vaunted scoring machine. Gretzky failed to score a goal during the series. The Sutter brothers, Duane and Brent, unexpectedly led all players with 7 and 5 points, respectively, while Bossy again scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal. After game four, the Oilers players walked past the Islanders' dressing room and were surprised to see the champions subdued and nursing injuries. Oilers players such as Gretzky and Mark Messier said that they realized at that moment how much it would actually take to win the Stanley Cup.
The Islanders finished the 1983–84 regular season tied atop the Prince of Wales Conference while successfully defending their Patrick Division title. They won a hard fought series, nicknamed the "Battle of New York", over the Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs. It was the fourth consecutive season that the Islanders had beaten the Rangers in the postseason. The Islanders then defeated the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens in six games each to set up a finals rematch with the Oilers. This time, the Oilers dethroned the Islanders to win the first of what would be five Cups in seven years. For the 1984 postseason, the NHL changed the home and away schedule for the finals, from two games in one arena, three games in the other to two games in one arena, three games in the other, and two more games in the first arena. Under this format, the Islanders earned home ice advantage in the series despite finishing lower than the Oilers in the regular season. However, they had to play three straight games in Edmonton, where the Oilers managed to lock up the series. Bossy said afterward that the team believed that if they could win a single away game, they would have been able to take games six and seven at home to win a fifth Stanley Cup.
Out of their two home games, the Islanders had lost game one with a score of 1–0, in what was a goaltending duel between Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr, though they roared back with a 6–1 win in game two. In Edmonton, the Oilers' offensive juggernaut buried the Islanders by scores of 7–2, 7–2 and 5–2. Bossy, who had scored 17 goals in each of the past three playoffs only scored 8 in the first three rounds of the 1984 playoffs and was silenced during the final series. Though the Islanders' bid for a record-tying fifth championship was ended, Game Five was noted for rookie Pat LaFontaine's emergence, as he scored two third period goals in 38 seconds to cut the Oilers' lead to 4–2.
During their run of four Stanley Cup championships and a fifth finals appearance, the Islanders won 19 straight playoff series, the longest streak in the history of professional sports (one more than the 1959–67 streak by the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association). Unlike the 1976–79 Montreal Canadiens, who needed to win three series in the 1976 and 1977 playoffs under the playoff format in place at that time, the Islanders had to win four series in each of their Stanley Cup seasons.
1984–91: Post-dynasty and the Easter Epic
The Islanders remained competitive for the rest of the decade, even as some of the stars from the Cup teams departed. As the decade wore on, Pickett began to keep the money from the team's cable deal rather than reinvest it in the team as he had done in years past. Although it did not become clear immediately, the lack of funds limited Torrey's ability to replace all of the departing talent.
In the 1984–85 NHL season, the Isles slipped to third in the Patrick Division and could do no better in the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons. They were now facing stiff competition from their division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. The Flyers had eliminated the Islanders in the Patrick Division Finals in 1985 and 1987 (the Flyers went on to the Stanley Cup finals both years). These losses were sandwiched around a 1986 first-round sweep by the Capitals – the team's first exit without winning a playoff round since 1978.
In 1986, Nystrom retired due to a serious injury and Clark Gillies was picked up on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres. Arbour retired as coach following the 1985–86 season and was replaced by longtime junior hockey coach Terry Simpson.
During the first round of the 1987 playoffs against the Capitals, the Isles had fallen behind in the series three games to one. In previous years, the Capitals would have already won the series due to the previous playoff format. However, 1987 marked the first season that the opening round of the playoffs was a best-of-7 series instead of a best-of-5 series. The Isles evened the series, which set the stage for one of the most famous games in NHL history: the "Easter Epic". Kelly Hrudey stopped 73 shots on goal while Pat LaFontaine scored at 8:47 of the fourth overtime—and at 1:56 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning. The win came even though the Islanders had been outshot 75–52. The Islanders were beaten in seven games by the Flyers in the second round of the playoffs. Chronic back pain forced Mike Bossy to retire after the 1986–87 season.
The next year, in 1988, the Islanders captured another division title, but were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the upstart New Jersey Devils. After the playoffs, Potvin retired, holding records for most career goals (310), assists (742) and points (1052) by a defenseman (he has since been passed in these categories by Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey). Around this time, the Islanders' run of good luck in the draft began to run out. Of their four top draft picks from 1987 to 1990, the Islanders lost one to a freak knee injury and two others never panned out.
A year after winning the division, the Islanders got off to a slow start in the 1988–89 season, winning only seven of their first 27 games. Torrey fired Simpson and brought Arbour back. Unfortunately, Arbour could not turn things around, and the Islanders finished with 61 points, tied with the Quebec Nordiques for the worst record in the league. It was the Isles' first losing season and the first time they had missed the playoffs since their second year of existence. Goalie Billy Smith, the last remaining original Islander, retired after the season to become the team's goaltending coach. Not long after the end of the 1988–89 debacle, Pickett moved to Florida and turned over day-to-day operations over to a committee of four Long Island entrepreneurs – Ralph Palleschi, Bob Rosenthal, Stephen Walsh, and Paul Greenwood. In return, they each bought a 2.5 interest in the team.
In 1989–90, the Islanders rebounded to get back in the playoffs, but they lost to the Rangers in five games. The team bought out the remaining years of Bryan Trottier's contract, and as of 2008–09 he is still the franchise leader in games played. He signed on as a free agent for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the off-season. The next year, the team finished well out of the playoffs after winning only 25 games.
1991–95: New faces and the miracle of 1993
LaFontaine, the Islanders' remaining superstar, was frustrated with the team's lack of success and the progress of his contract negotiations, and held out rather than report to camp before 1991–92. In response to the holdout, Torrey engineered a rebuilding project with two blockbuster trades on October 25, 1991. He dealt LaFontaine, Randy Wood and Randy Hillier (along with future considerations) to the Buffalo Sabres in return for Pierre Turgeon, Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp and Dave McLlwain. He also sent longtime captain Brent Sutter and Brad Lauer to the Chicago Blackhawks for Steve Thomas and Adam Creighton. With these additions and a talented core of players such as Derek King, Ray Ferraro and Patrick Flatley, along with incoming Soviet-bloc players Vladimir Malakhov and Darius Kasparaitis, the Islanders had a new foundation in the early '90s. However, the management committee was not nearly as patient as Boe and Pickett had been, and forced Torrey to resign after the Islanders missed the playoffs again that season. Assistant GM Don Maloney was hired in Torrey's place, while Torrey quickly resurfaced with the expansion Florida Panthers.
In Maloney's first year, 1992–93, the Islanders rebounded to make the playoffs, in the process surpassing the 80-point mark for the first time in six years. The LaFontaine-Turgeon trade proved successful for both the Islanders and Sabres, as both players hit career highs in points and Turgeon won the Lady Byng Trophy.
Ray Ferraro emerged as a playoff hero, scoring a pair of overtime winners in the first round series against the Capitals. Instead of celebrating after winning the decisive sixth game at Nassau Coliseum, however, the Islanders were both irate and despondent. Turgeon, the team's star center and leading scorer, suffered a shoulder separation when Dale Hunter checked him from behind as he celebrated a series-clinching goal. Turgeon was believed to be out for the entire second round, if not longer. He returned only for spot powerplay duty in the last game of the second round. Hunter received a then-record 21-game suspension.
The Islanders' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were twice-defending Stanley Cup champions and full of stars such as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. The Penguins had roared through the regular season with 119 points, as well as recording a record 17 consecutive wins towards the end of the season, and were overwhelmingly favored to win a third straight championship. Jim Smith of Newsday, Long Island's hometown newspaper, predicted that with Turgeon on the sidelines, the Penguins would sweep the Islanders out of the playoffs. However, on the strength of outstanding goaltending from Glenn Healy and contributions from all four lines, the Islanders achieved a huge upset when David Volek scored at 5:16 of overtime of the deciding seventh game. Newsday's front page the day following the win was a picture of Healy with a headline reading, "It's a Miracle!" This remains, as of the 2010-2011 season, the last playoff series won by the Islanders, a span totaling 18 years. Turgeon returned to the Islanders' top line for the Wales Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens, though he was not in peak form as he had not fully recovered. The Islanders bowed out of the playoffs after a hard-fought five games, two of which went to overtime. After beating the Isles, the Canadiens went on to win the Cup.
Maloney had avoided making many personnel changes his first year, but on the eve of the 1993 Expansion Draft he traded backup goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick to the Quebec Nordiques for Ron Hextall. The clubs also exchanged first-round picks in the deal. Able to protect only one netminder in the Expansion Draft, the Islanders left Healy exposed. He was claimed by the Florida Panthers, then was claimed by Tampa Bay in Phase II of the draft the next day, and finally had his rights traded to the Rangers, where he was the backup.
The Islanders barely squeezed past the Panthers to make the 1994 playoffs before being swept in a lopsided opening series by the first-place Rangers, who went on to win the Cup. Arbour retired for good as coach and was succeeded by longtime assistant Lorne Henning. Hextall, who allowed 16 goals in three games, drew most of the criticism for the failed playoff campaign and was shipped to Philadelphia for Tommy Soderstrom in September. In the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season, the Islanders not only failed to qualify for the playoffs, they finished ahead of only the third-year Ottawa Senators.
1995–2000: Management issues
By the end of the 1994–95 season, Maloney was under considerable heat from the press and fan base for his handling of the team. Since taking over in 1992, the only noticeable attempt he made to upgrade the roster was the acquisition of Hextall. Near the end of the failed 1995 campaign, Maloney decided that the core of players he had left alone for three seasons should be totally revamped, and he undertook a rebuilding project. He traded Turgeon and Malakhov to Montreal for Kirk Muller and Mathieu Schneider, and Hogue was sent to Toronto for young goaltender Eric Fichaud. Additionally, Maloney allowed the team's leading scorer, Ferraro, to depart as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season. Fans' displeasure at Maloney for trading the popular Turgeon was magnified when Muller balked at joining a rebuilding team. He only played 45 games for the Islanders before being sent to the Maple Leafs.
Before the 1995–96 season, Maloney fired Henning and named Mike Milbury head coach. The same year, the Isles' attempt at updating their look resulted in the unveiling of a new team logo, which turned out to so disliked by Islanders' fans that the team reverted to a modified version of the old logo as soon as the league allowed it to do so. The year was a disappointment on the ice as well, as the Islanders finished in last place with a record of 22–50–10. During the season, team management fired Maloney, whom fans blamed for the team's downfall, and gave Milbury total control of hockey operations as both coach and general manager.
In the middle of the 1996–97 season, Milbury resigned as coach and elevated assistant Rick Bowness to the head coaching position. However, after another losing season and little improvement, Milbury took over as coach in the middle of the 1997–98 season. The team improved to fourth place in the Atlantic Division but still failed to make the playoffs. He stepped down as coach yet again in the middle of the 1998–99 season but retained his job as GM.
During this playoff drought, instability in the front office mirrored the Islanders' substandard performance on the ice. Pickett sold the team to Dallas businessman John Spano in 1996. However, three months after the 1997 closing, Spano had only paid Pickett a fraction of the first installment on the cable rights deal. Several Islanders executives tipped off Newsday that something was amiss about their new boss. In July, Newsday exposed Spano as a fraud who did not have the assets required to complete the deal. Among other things, the investigation showed that Spano had deliberately misled the NHL and the Islanders about his net worth, and also had two lawsuits pending against him. Within days of the report, Spano was forced to relinquish the team to Pickett. Federal prosecutors turned up evidence that Spano had forged many of the documents used to vouch for his wealth and to promise payment to Pickett, and even appeared to have sent many of the documents from his own office in Dallas. He was sentenced to 71 months in prison for bank and wire fraud. The NHL was embarrassed when reports surfaced that it spent less than $1,000 (depending on the source, the league spent either $525 or $750) to check Spano's background. It subsequently stiffened the process for vetting future owners.
Pickett finally found a buyer, a group led by Howard Milstein and Phoenix Coyotes co-owner Steven Gluckstern. Even that deal almost fell through when Spectacor Management Group, which managed the Coliseum for Nassau County, tried to force Pickett to certify that the Coliseum was safe. However, Pickett refused, since the Coliseum had fallen into disrepair in recent seasons. SMG backed down under pressure from the Islanders, the NHL and Nassau County officials.
Initially the team made numerous trades and increased their payroll in an effort to assemble a better team. In one transaction, youngsters Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe were traded for veteran Trevor Linden. However, after the Islanders finished 12 points short of the playoffs in 1997-98, Milstein and Gluckstern decided to run the team on an austere budget in an attempt to make a profit. They also complained about the condition of the Nassau Coliseum and made noises about moving the team elsewhere. They began trading or releasing many popular players to avoid paying their salaries, including star scorer Zigmund Palffy, team captain Linden, former rookie of the year Bryan Berard, and rugged defenseman Rich Pilon.
With the loss of so much talent, the result was predictable. The Islanders finished with 58 points in 1999 and 57 points in 2000. Attendance, which had been in a steady decline over the past few years, fell off even further to under 12,000 per game. At the same time, Milstein bid hundreds of millions of dollars in unsuccessful attempts to purchase the National Football League's Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
2000–2006: New ownership, a return to the playoffs
In 2000, Milstein and Gluckstern sold the team to Computer Associates executives Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar. The new owners gave Milbury the green light to spend money and invest in free agents. His first attempt proved unpopular with fans, as he traded away future stars Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish. Milbury then further surprised the hockey world when he took Rick DiPietro with the first selection in the entry draft, ahead of the consensus picks Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. Reporters and fans were alternately confused and enraged by the moves, which Milbury acknowledged, saying, "As dangerous as this may be, we think Mad Mike maybe has something going for him." The "Mad Mike" nickname has remained with Milbury ever since. Milbury said that his moves were intended to improve the team immediately. In that respect, they failed completely The Islanders finished with the worst record in the NHL and the second-worst season in franchise history; the team's 0.317 winning percentage that year was only ahead of only 1972–73's .192. The team's uninspired play led Milbury to fire Isles legend Butch Goring as head coach before the end of the year. Many fans were upset that Goring and not Milbury took the fall for the lost season, and they were again upset when Milbury passed on hiring Ted Nolan as Goring's successor. Instead, Milbury tapped Bruins assistant Peter Laviolette.
The team also made three key personnel acquisitions prior to the 2001-2002 season. They acquired Alexei Yashin from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Bill Muckalt, defenseman Zdeno Chara and the Isles' second overall pick in the entry draft, which the Senators used to select Jason Spezza. The following day, Islanders prospects Tim Connolly and Taylor Pyatt were traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Michael Peca, who became the team's captain. By virtue of finishing last the year before, the Isles were also able to claim goaltender Chris Osgood with the first pick in the waiver draft, adding a former championship goaltender without giving up any players in exchange. Thanks in large part to strong play by Peca, Yashin and Osgood, the new-look Islanders opened the season on a tear, starting 11–1-1–1 en route to finishing with 96 points, their best point total in 18 years. The Islanders finished one point short of their first division title in 14 years. The 44-point leap was the best turnaround in franchise history, surpassing the 1974–75 unit's 32-point jump. Had they won the Atlantic Division title, they would have had home-ice advantage in the first round. Instead, they were seeded fifth, and faced the fourth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. The Islanders lost to the Leafs in a very physical first round series in which no road team won a game. Game 4 featured a Shawn Bates penalty shot goal with a 2:30 to play that gave the Islanders the lead and ultimately the game. In Game 5, Gary Roberts charged Islander defenseman Kenny Jonsson and Darcy Tucker submarined Peca with a questionable check that tore the Islander captain's anterior cruciate ligament. Neither Jonsson nor Peca returned in the series.
Despite the promise shown in the Toronto series, the Islanders had a slow start to the 2002–03 NHL season. They rebounded to make the playoffs but lost a five game series in the first round to the top-seeded Ottawa Senators. Milbury, known to make moves that riled the fanbase, fired Laviolette after the season, citing postseason interviews with the players in which they expressed a lack of confidence in the coach. He was replaced with Steve Stirling, who had previously been coaching the team's top minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In 2004, the Islanders again lost in the first round of the playoffs, this time to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the fact that the Lightning finished first in the conference and the Islanders qualified for the playoffs as the 8th and final seed, a few journalists had picked the Islanders to win based on their strong regular season performance against Tampa Bay.
Following the 2004–05 NHL lockout, which eliminated the 2004–05 season, the Islanders made several player moves to increase offense for 2005–06. Peca was traded to Edmonton for center Mike York, freeing up room under the NHL's new salary cap. The same day, the team signed winger Miroslav Satan to play alongside Yashin. Milbury also remade the defensive corps, replacing departed free agents Adrian Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik and Jonsson, who left the NHL to play in his native Sweden, with Alexei Zhitnik, Brad Lukowich and Brent Sopel. In the aftermath, Yashin was named the team's new captain. The team's inconsistent play led to Stirling's replacement midway through the season.
2006–present: A new look, and rebuilding
On the day he fired Stirling, Milbury also announced that he would step down as general manager once a successor was found. Milbury served for a year as vice president of all of Charles Wang's sports properties before resigning in May 2007. The offseason was characterized by a degree of tumult. Wang hired Ted Nolan as coach and Neil Smith as GM, but he fired Smith after a little over a month and replaced him with backup goaltender Garth Snow, who retired to accept the position. The Islanders also made several free agent acquisitions, including defensemen Brendan Witt and Tom Poti as well as forwards Mike Sillinger and Chris Simon. Charles Wang also signed goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year, 67.5 million dollar contract, among the longest in professional sports history.
Eyeing home ice advantage in the playoffs, the Isles traded for Ryan Smyth at the deadline but went on to suffer some setbacks because of injuries to DiPietro and a distracting stick swinging incident that resulted in Simon's suspension for the rest of the season. The team eventually qualified for the playoffs by capping off a late season winning steak with a shootout victory over the Devils. The Isles lost their first round matchup with the Buffalo Sabres, the NHL's best team during the regular season, in five games.
After the season ended, Islanders GM Garth Snow announced that the team would begin a rebuilding process. The process would involve building from within the draft, the same way that the Islanders dynasty of the 1980s had done. Through careful drafting and careful acquisition of free agent players, the Islanders hope to rebuild the team to become consistent Stanley Cup contenders.
The team announced that they would buy out captain Alexei Yashin's contract in June 2007. Smyth, Viktor Kozlov, Jason Blake, Tom Poti and Richard Zednik also left in July 2007 via free agency. Days later, the Islanders signed Bill Guerin, who assumed the captaincy, to a two-year contract. Also in the offseason, free agents Mike Comrie, Andy Sutton and Jon Sim joined the team. The Isles remained in the playoff hunt through the trade deadline, but a rash of injuries saw them plummet to the fifth worst record in league by the end of the season. The injuries led to increased opportunities for young players, including Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo, who had a productive 9 game stint with the Islanders to end the season.
At the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Islanders made two trades to move down from the fifth to the ninth overall pick, with which they selected center Josh Bailey. They also added free agents Mark Streit and Doug Weight. The team dismissed head coach Ted Nolan over alleged philosophy differences, and later that summer replaced him with Scott Gordon. Near the trade deadline, Snow traded Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Dean McAmmond and the San Jose Sharks' first round draft pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and sent captain Bill Guerin to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional draft pick, which became a third rounder.
The Islanders selected John Tavares first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. After winning the draft lottery, the Islanders said their ticket sales department has seen a "300% increase in phone calls and e-mail inquiries over last year at this time" and also is "on pace" to renew 90% of its season tickets. The Islanders also drafted defenseman Calvin de Haan with the 12th overall pick.
The 2009-2010 Islanders season started out slow, with the team losing its first 6 games, 3 of which went into overtime or a shootout. The team recorded its first victory of the 2009-2010 season on October 21, in a shootout against the Carolina Hurricanes that ended with John Tavares scoring the winning goal. The team continued to play inconsistent hockey due to injuries and it looked as though they would be finishing towards the bottom of the league once again. However, in late December 2009 and early January 2010, the team hit a hot streak and went 8-2-1 between December 26 and January 18. This led the team to 3-games above the NHL-average .500 mark. Unfortunately right after this, the team went 3-10-0 before the Olympic break. The first game back from the Olympic break saw the Islanders take on the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Islanders would win the game, on the back of a Blake Comeau hat trick. The Islanders ended their season 5-3-1 in the last nine games, failing to reach the playoffs by 9 points. In the 2009-2010 season the Islanders went to overtime 24 times, with 14 of those games being decided by a shootout.
At the 2010 Draft Lottery the New York Islanders were awarded the 5th pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. The New York Islanders used their pick to draft Swiss forward, Nino Niederreiter 5th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft on June 25. They also drafted US-born Brock Nelson with the 30th overall pick, and controversial Russian forward Kirill Kabanov with the 65th overall pick.
On November 15, during a 10-game losing streak, Islanders management fired head coach Scott Gordon and replaced him with Jack Capuano, who had been coaching the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the club's AHL affiliate. The team earned praise for its improved play in the second half. Rookie Michael Grabner, acquired on waivers early in the season, scored 34 goals and was selected as a finalist for the Calder Trophy.
On August 1, 2011, voters in Nassau County rejected a proposal for a new arena to replace the Nassau Coliseum. In the wake of the vote there has been speculation that the team may eventually end up playing in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, or moving to Queens, Suffolk, Kansas City, or Canada.
An advertising executive named John Alogna from East Meadow created the original version of the Islanders logo with the NY over a silhouette of Long Island. Part of the Y is made to resemble a hockey stick, with three orange stripes near the bottom of the shaft, and a puck located to the right of the stick blade, above the "Islanders" name at the bottom. Aside from the 1995 rebrand attempt, this logo has remained largely intact throughout the team's history.
Before the 1995–96 season the Islanders attempted to update their look. The result was the unveiling of a logo depicting a fisherman holding a hockey stick. Many fans found that the logo bore a strong resemblance to the Gorton's fisherman and prompted New York Rangers fans to chant "We Want Fishsticks" after the Rangers score versus the Islanders. The logo was a marketing disaster; the reaction among the fan base was so negative that management announced it would revert back to the original logo as soon as league rules allowed them to do so. The traditional logo was phased back in over the next two seasons, starting as an alternate jersey logo in 1996-97 before fully replacing the fisherman in 1997-98. The only change to the classic logo at this time was its colors; as the team had replaced its original royal blue with navy, the logo was recolored to match.
Beginning in 2008, the Islanders introduced another modification to their original logo for their new third jersey. The "new" logo, once again in royal blue, now features four orange stripes on the hockey stick instead of three, representing the four consecutive Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s. This became the team's full-time logo in 2010 when the team retired their inaugural Reebok Edge uniforms.
The Islanders debuted in 1972 with traditional-style jerseys: either white with orange and royal blue stripes near the waistline and on the sleeves or royal blue with white and orange stripes. The design remained largely the same, despite minor tweaks, through the 1994–95 season.
Prior to the 1995–96 season, team executives decided to change the jersey. The fisherman logo replaced the "NY" circular design, and the new uniforms incorporated navy blue and a brighter orange and introduced teal and gray shades as well. The team was seeking increased merchandise revenues, with the outward justification of connecting the team more overtly to Long Island. The jersey included a lighthouse shoulder patch, a reference to the Montauk Lighthouse, and featured uneven stripes resembling an ocean wave near the waistline, on the sleeves, and across the shoulders. All of the numbering and lettering on the jerseys also followed the wave pattern. Late in the season, the team decided to do away with the fisherman logo, but league rules forbade them from switching jersey designs for the 1996–97 season on only a few months' notice. Instead, the Islanders debuted their first third (and fourth) jerseys, which were identical to the home and road jerseys then worn by the team except that they used the circular "NY" crest in place of the fisherman. The team wore these jerseys in approximately fifteen games during the 1996–97 season and adopted them permanently for 1997–98.
Prior to the 1998–99 season, the team's new ownership reverted to the initial traditional design but kept the navy blue and bright orange from the "wave" era jersey. They added a shoulder patch of four bars, alternating in color, to represent the Islanders' four straight Stanley Cup championships. The new design also changed the borders around the numbers and "C" and "A" letters: instead of leaving no space between the orange border and the white or blue numbers, the jersey featured a raised outline. A third jersey was introduced in 2003. It was orange and had navy blue stripes, outlined in white, going vertically on the sleeves and then cutting horizontally on the bottom of the sleeve. The navy blue stripes came out of the sleeve diagonally and jabbed out to a point into the bottom of the jersey. The team wore these jerseys through the 2006–07 season.
For the 2007–08 season, the Islanders redesigned their uniforms as all NHL teams changed over to the Reebok Edge system. This Islanders jersey resembled the prior design with a few changes. It featured uniform numbers on the right chest above the logo. The name plates were in two colored format: white on orange on the home navy blue jersey and navy blue on orange on the road white jersey. The sleeves on both jerseys were orange, with a wide navy stripe above a thin white stripe at the elbow. The jerseys had a thin stripe tracing around the shoulders, and they featured "retro" laces at the neck.
The Islanders' third jersey was a royal blue throwback design resembling the jersey that the team wore from 1972–1977, with white letters and numerals (as worn from 1973 on; the team wore orange numerals on the blue jerseys in their inaugural season). The logo on the jersey features four stripes on the hockey stick instead of the original three, another nod to the championship teams of 1980-83.
In 2010-11, the Islanders retired their inaugural navy Edge uniforms, replacing them with the throwback design which became the new home jersey. A corresponding new white road jersey was unveiled during the Islanders' draft party at Nassau Coliseum.
For the 2011-2012 season, The Islanders are planning to unveil alternate uniforms. Unveiled on November 16, the new alternate is black with grey on the shoulder yoke. The front of the jersey will have the team name above the player's number in orange with blue and white trim. The Islanders crest is placed on the shoulder yoke.
Mascot and Ice Girls
The Islanders' team mascot is named "Sparky the Dragon", who served at one point as cross-promotion with the New York Dragons. In the mid-1990s, the Islanders had a mascot called "Nyiles" which vaguely resembled the logo fisherman. Nyiles was discarded toward the end of the 1997-98 season; the team made somewhat of an event out of it at late-season home games by distributing "Who kidnapped Nyiles?" flyers implicating various other NHL mascots in his disappearance (Toronto Maple Leafs mascot Carleton the Bear turned out to be the culprit).
The Islanders also have an ice crew of women, the "Ice Girls", who skate onto the ice during television breaks to clean up the snow that piles up during the game. The Ice Girls are also used for promotional purposes.
- This is only a partial list of the last five seasons. For the full season-by-season history, see List of New York Islanders seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Records as of April 10, 2011
Season GP W L OTL Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs 2006–07 82 40 30 12 92 248 240 4th, Atlantic Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 1–4 (Sabres) 2007–08 82 35 38 9 79 194 243 5th, Atlantic Did not qualify 2008–09 82 26 47 9 61 201 279 5th, Atlantic Did not qualify 2009–10 82 34 37 11 79 222 264 5th, Atlantic Did not qualify 2010-11 82 30 39 13 73 229 264 5th, Atlantic Did not qualify
Updated November 15, 2011.
Six New York Islanders players have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the most recent being Pat LaFontaine in 2003. Denis Potvin and Mike Bossy were the first Islanders to be inducted, in 1991. Besides the six players, two team builders have been inducted. Bill Torrey and Al Arbour were both inducted in 1995 and 1996, respectively. All six of these players, plus Bob Bourne have since been inducted into the Islanders' Hall of Fame.
The Islanders' organization also honors individuals by retiring the number they wore on their jersey. Six of the players who were inducted into the Hall of Fame (Denis Potvin's #5, Clark Gillies' #9, Bryan Trottier's #19, Mike Bossy's #22, Bob Nystrom's #23, and Billy Smith's #31) have been retired and a banner raised in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Retiring a player's number means that nobody will use that number again while playing for the New York Islanders. Each player with a retired number has their own banner that hangs in the rafters at the Coliseum. There are two other banners hanging with the retired numbers. One is for Al Arbour in recognition of the 1500 games he coached for the Islanders. The other banner is for Bill Torrey, who held the title of General manager, Vice president, President, and Chairman of the Board for the Islanders organization from 1972 until 1993. Torrey's banner features the words "The Architect" and a bowtie, which was his trademark, in place of a number. The Islanders organization has expressed interested in retiring Brent Sutter's #21, sometime during the 2011 season. Sutter is among the top ten all time in Islanders scoring.
Franchise scoring leaders
Below are the top-ten point-scorers in the history of the Islanders' franchise as of the end of the 2008-09 NHL season.
Pos Position GP Games played G Goals A Assists Pts Points Player Position GP G A Pts Bryan Trottier C 1123 500 853 1353 Mike Bossy RW 752 573 553 1126 Denis Potvin D 1060 310 742 1052 Clark Gillies LW 872 304 359 663 Brent Sutter C 694 287 323 610 Pat LaFontaine C 530 287 279 566 John Tonelli LW 594 206 338 544 Bob Bourne C 814 238 304 542 Bob Nystrom RW 900 235 278 513 Derek King LW 638 211 288 499
Franchise individual records
This is a list of franchise individual records by the Islanders.
- Most goals in a season: Mike Bossy, 69 (1978–79)
- Most assists in a season: Bryan Trottier, 87 (1978–79)
- Most points in a season: Mike Bossy, 147 (1981–82)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Brian Curran, 356 (1986–87)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: Denis Potvin, 101 (1978–79)
- Most points in a season, rookie: Bryan Trottier, 95 (1975–76)
- Most wins in a season: Billy Smith; Chris Osgood, Rick DiPietro 32 (1981–82; 2001–02; 2006–07)
The Islanders have had thirteen team captains. Ed Westfall, the team's first, won the Bill Masterton Trophy during his Islanders captaincy; Michael Peca, who won the Frank J. Selke Trophy after the 2001–02 season, is the only other captain to have won an award during his term. Denis Potvin had the longest captaincy, from 1979 through 1987, during which he played 521 regular season games. Bryan McCabe served the shortest length of time, 56 regular season games. Bill Guerin was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins mid-season in 2009. Doug Weight was named captain on 2 October 2009. On 21 September 2011, the Islanders named Mark Streit as the thirteenth captain in team history.
The Islanders did not assign a captain for the 1996–97 season after their previous captain, Patrick Flatley, was released from his contract. The Islanders also did not name a captain for the 2000–01 season.
Radio and television
The following is a list of on-air talent for the Islanders:
- Howie Rose, play-by-play
- Butch Goring, color analyst
- Deb Placey, studio host
- Peter Ruttgaizer, studio host
Islanders' radio broadcasts are aired over WRHU (88.7 FM), which is licensed to Hempstead-based Hofstra University. The play-by-play is done by longtime Islanders broadcaster Chris King. Hofstra students will handle color commentary and reporting for all home games and several away games, and are also involved in engineering the broadcasts from on-and-off site.
- List of New York Islanders draft picks
- List of New York Islanders general managers
- List of New York Islanders head coaches
- List of NHL players
- List of NHL seasons
- List of Stanley Cup champions
- List of New York Islanders broadcasters
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