Through the long history of NYIFC or Islanders-Sound Tigers going back to 1998, I have never questioned our teams fans much less our loyal readers. This blog has the greatest respect for our fans.
NYIFC has done endless entries on media's role in hurting perception and other items that contribute to poor fan support not only for our team but NY hockey in general.
Today it's time to point that bright light at ourselves as fans of this franchise for over a generation.
This is not personal but a general statement.
One reason why we are here now is because of twenty plus years of being one of the lowest drawing teams in professional sports going back to 1989, some want to live and die by the Milbury card, that's not fair or reflective of what has happened.
The excuses end now, they have to.
Mike Milbury was in a Stanley Cup Final in 89-90, he has a future.
Anyone who has not been at the games deserves a measure of blame.
Of course finances are always tight and a hockey ticket is an expensive luxury regardless of a teams record. Guess what? It's the same everywhere.
28th-30th in attendance has been 28th-30th for far too long.
Tough Reality Check That Is Not Easy To Write:
I took a rare swim in the kiddie pool for a few days. Among those pretending they are selling themselves as some kind of necessary resource or believe it is about themselves playing to audiences, they pointed the finger at everything but poor fan support for the club's current problems.
Good for page views, resume, and keeping popular, however many of the kiddies are very much about making a career for themselves above all and if not with this team perhaps another. They might love the New York Islanders, their personal gain however is the highest priority.
NYIFC was started to help tell the New York Islanders story as fairly as possible, nothing more ever. Punches cannot be pulled about the clubs attendance any longer.
History vs Hard Facts:
After four straight cups, 1987 playoff run and a first place finish in 1988, the fan base was gone in less than a year by 1989. Fan support stopped long before John Pickett began his exit strategy and that was with Bill Torrey and Al Arbour still here.
Not too many fan bases run for the exits that quickly.
Lack of fan support no doubt in my estimation led to a lot of short-sighted, cost-effective and ultimately poor management decisions whether you wish to acknowledge that or not. Pat Lafontaine held out and was traded, Howard Milstein came in and told the fans to fill the building first. Bill Torrey was being booed at the Nassau Coliseum by 1992. Smitty at his retirement ceremony commented on how great it was to see the building full.
You (or our fan base if you prefer) did now show up after 1989, there were empty seats during the 92-93 playoffs. You are not showing up to support Garth Snow’s youth movement.
You (or our fan base if you prefer again) did not support Milbury’s youth movement in Luongo, Palffy, Bertuzzi and those other players and perhaps forced the owner to tell the general manager cut the budget to nothing. As soon as Milbury got permission from Wang’s ownership to spend he saved his job and improved his team by over forty points in one year.
No one complained in 2001-02, you showed up for half a season and one playoff.
We can talk about all of Mike Milbury's trades but our choices as customers were a reason behind those decisions. The team could not continue with less than five thousand people at games, you gave Wang’s 2000 ownership no choice because you refused to be patient or support a youth movement any longer.
Many of you would not support the club last season when the owner dared raise prices to the league average. Prices? Why don't you check out what the public is being charged in Winnipeg to support the Thrashers. ($39 to $129 per game — a season ticket campaign, requiring three to five-year commitments)
How did things get so bad to where winning a playoff series here is some standard of success?
Mike Milbury did his job, he brought the NHL playoffs back to New York under Wang at a time you demanded Charles Wang prove he was not Howard Milstein. It was the only plan to date you showed any sign of supporting until Wang raised prices to pay for Yashin, Peca and again people stopped showing up by early 2003.
Other local teams fans stay away when losing (Knicks, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Nets) but none are as fair weather as New York Islander fans or have stayed away longer.
Charles Wang’s New York Islanders made four playoffs in five years as owner before his roster took over the title of the NHL most injured team three of the last four years, it's a mediocre result at best, not the train-wreck some make it out to be.
Many NHL teams have done far worse on the ice, none has done worse in the stands for twenty years. We can blame Milbury but we can’t hide from facts our support at games was terrible before and after Milbury.
Don’t blame Snow, Milbury, Maloney or Torrey, start looking in the mirror because Coliseum approval or not, this league is not supporting franchises drawing under 10,000.
The team that traded for Ryan Smyth was in sixth place in 06-07, Ted Nolan was coaching. 12,000+ showed up for the first game after that trade against St Louis.
Perhaps the only template New York fans accept today is the Yankees way, you either buy everyone and spend the most or we are not attending. Msg has tons of phony/announced sellouts, they cannot put out enough ads for available tickets but it's not as bad as here and they have basketball.
The Devils cannot fill a new building even spending top dollar, it's not as bad as here.
Some fans seem to expect a 2012 payroll with 1980 ticket prices here, that’s not realistic.
It’s changing when 15,000 people show up on weeknights in October and November, and not from giveaways, it's changing when an adult crowd of die-hard fans are making noise like they used to when a Tuesday night game was the rule here.
Our crowds last season sounded like only a bunch of kids are attending and they looked worse than some of those four figure crowds around 7,000.
The New York Islanders under Charles Wang’s tenure spent tons of money and have had mediocre results (making playoffs) but far better than many of it’s NHL counterparts outdrawing this franchise virtually every single year. Charles Wang's payroll was over forty million before any cap or floor.
No, not a Wang infomercial, this goes beyond who any owner is because there is no time left for that. We can no longer care who owns the team or how they are playing, you have to fill the Coliseum now and send a statement the public support is still here regardless who the owner, general manager or players are.
That solves a lot of problems.
Bottom line our fans have to show up or it’s not going to work here. This teams great past is not going to secure it's future. The local government does not see this franchise as the public trust it should have been.
The NHL is not going to support a team that finishes dead last or at bottom every year in attendance a day longer then they have to. The NHL has to put this team on the road for October/November because weeknight games are an embarrassment here, other teams deserve Friday, Saturday home games too in October and November.
The sad truth is the Florida Panthers, who have not seen a playoff game since 2000 had four thousand more customers per game in 2010-11, they have outdrawn the New York Islanders ten years in a row.
Outside of 2001-02/02-03 the Atlanta Thrashers outdrew the New York Islanders, including the final year of their franchise every single year.
And that's all with tons of opposing fan bases at the Nassau Coliseum plus the late season discounts.
We as fans must now blame ourselves for some of what's happened in the stands since 1989. You don't have any more time to look back, you cannot worry about who the owner is or what anyone did a decade ago or longer.
Take a good look at the player comments from Thrashers about fan support and what it means as they depart Atlanta for Winnipeg.
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum played hosts to one of the greatest teams in NHL history, the only hockey dynasty NY has ever known, the longest dynasty in American hockey history, the seats were filled for every game over a decade plus.
It has to be that way again starting next season.
Unless things begin to change dramatically in the stands nothing that happens on the ice is going to keep this franchise around much longer.
You want to stay home and talk about Mike Milbury, who's been gone since 2006 or John Spano, Howard Milstein, John Pickett, Charles Wang or whoever as excuses for not going to games?
It's all your going to have left to remember this great franchise very soon if that's your ultimate decision.
I'm sorry if you don't like reading this, however it needed to be written, someone had to write it. Anyone can write what you want to read.
Folks generally understand those who actually care write (or tell) what you don't want to read (or hear) whether it's a pleasant task or not.
NYIFC was started because I care about this team and wanted to help.
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