Hello, erstwhile playoff watchers! If you, like me, saw your team already make it’s way to the golf course, it’s unlikely you have lost your love for the game of hockey, but who do you root for? This quickly becomes a process of elimination and occasionally desperation.
Maybe you start out with your favorite player who isn’t from your team. Then you pick a secondary team. Then, if that team gets tossed, well, it’s on to whoever is playing your rivals. Because we all have our teams, whether we admit it or not, that we cannot abide seeing hoist lord Stanley’s Cup. Some of us have more than one. I have a long and dirty list. My bandwagon, in case you were asking, was the Florida Panthers, the same team that got me passionate for hockey as a wee one.
Speaking of rats, allow me to regal you with a tale of an organization full of them, a boy, and his hapless hockey team.
4 years ago, The Islanders, that moribund bunch devoid of creativity or so the media would have you believe, introduced the blog box under the direction of Isles PR man Chris Botta. He urged the fans for innovative, outside the box selections. I pitched a gay guy’s take on the game. Never heard an answer. Guess the idea was just a hair ahead of it’s time. Botta was soon sacked, amid allegations that I can’t prove but I won’t print here. The terms of his parting ways with the organization he called home for 2 decades made neither side look good, and rest assured, the parties public spat looked even worse.
It also, in all likelihood, cost Frans Nielsen the Selke and possibly Michael Grabner the Calder, but I digress. The point is Botta, Wang, and Snow all emerged with varying degrees of egg on their face. Nobody came out smelling like a rose.
Though I was annoyed I didn’t even hear a peep back, I remained a loyal fan.
To be blunt, I teeter on the verge of being a homer. My confidant and devout Sabres fan Tom says “Vinny has unconditional love for the Islanders”. He’s pretty close to right. A player has to be a verified douchebag for me to bash him (What up, Campoli, you suckfest). That love, however, doesn’t extend to the owner and the front office.
A bad team owes an explanation to it’s fans. To be blunt, I root for a horrible football team also. This team also wears orange. They hail from South Beach. A recent fan uprising didn’t result in the GM getting sacked, but it did result in the team opening up and engaging it’s fans directly, listening to the critics and responding to them. Having offered some recent criticism of the GM and owner of this hockey team, as many have, all I wanted was some answers. Some reason for optimism.
Not to toot my own horn, but when we couldn’t draw for shit, I took to new media and got a grassroots movement going that resulted in our first sellout of last season. I’ll quote that letter from Isles PR man David Hochman now:
“The whole organization thinks what you guys did for the Washington game was great, we really do.”
I kept that letter. I did, I know it’s lame. But a thank you from the team I love meant a lot to me. I’ve had ticket packages for 5 years. Tom Giulietti, the best rep they have, has been my rep for 3 of them. He’s treated a couple of dudes in the cheapies with first class service. He does a great job of making you feel like part of that ‘committed’ group they beat their chests about in every ad.
My paltry civil servant salary is spent on playing hockey, getting my masters, car payments and entirely too much of it is spent on the New York Islanders. That was changed by their most recent actions.
Today, I went to thank the team for their support, Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson, for their support of the You Can Play Team, which is something far more important than who gets their names on a trophy this year. Moulson read my thanks for he and Fransie’s support of YCP and shot this back to me:
“(It’s) Our pleasure and duty as players to help make sure everyone, fans and players feel comfortable being part of (the) hockey family.”
I was overjoyed, one of the true gentlemen of the game (Lady Byng Finalist!) had taken time to write me back on such an important issue. I forwarded my thanks to my team, and found the message couldn’t go through. I was confused. I then found out that I had been blocked by a member of the team’s digital media team from their twitter. I went from overjoyed to bewildered to crestfallen in 90 seconds.
Now, I’m fucking pissed. You make an Italian mad, you get an ornery bitch. You make a gay Italian mad, you get a sassy motherfucker. Take both, add in a dash of Brooklynite, and you’ve made a big time mistake. You tell me to shut up, I just get louder. So now, in the tradition of Martin Luther, lets lay my grievances bare in public.
Scouting: we have by far, by far the fewest scouts in the NHL. BY FAR. A Third of a normal NHL scouting contingent. We let our most decorated scout, Ryan Jankowski, go. He hasn’t been replaced.
Payroll: We ice a payroll every game 20 million below the cap floor, artificially inflated via unattainable bonuses for Veterans and ELCs for Kids.
Free Agency: We are unwilling to be players in July and hide behind the arena excuse. Horseshit. Utter horseshit. Calgary signs free agents, and they live in such a cow-town their aged arena is literally named the Saddledome.
Development: To get those juicy ELCs in the lineup, we rush kids to the pros. Bailey says what up. Nino says ditto.
Owner: Wang is unwilling to do right by these fans, our honored alums (Patty LaFontaine says WHAT UP), and our future. He is the worst owner the NHL and a crook.
Organization: The Hockey Ops team is filled with underqualified yes men who are there solely because they have no individual voice, no leverage to stand up for themselves, and are utterly beholden to Wang for their ‘shot’. It’s cronyism, not meritocracy. Dissenters, no matter how good they are at their job are exiled.
I was getting my skate on at our practice rink in Syosset the other day when a team employee, who I won’t toss under the bus, said the Rangers and Devils going on runs is great for us because it forces Wang to spend money, puts pressure to improve on them, and maybe gets fans going from apathy to anger.
We are already there, my friend. We are already there. To quote Isles5 on IslanderMania (the former official team board, who lost that status when they were unwilling to censor posters displeasure WITH 5 CONSECUTIVE YEARS OF BEING A LOTTERY TEAM) who summed up the experience of being an Isles fan perfectly:
“I literally hate the organization as much as I love the crest on the jerseys.”
Dissent can only be silenced for too long, before it becomes too much to muzzle. You’ve done this Charles to this storied and beloved franchise, answer your fans who you’ve betrayed, or continue to hide like the tyrant and COWARD you are.
Follow Vinny on twitter: @RoseTintedVisor