A recent supermarket trip inspired today’s piece. One of your intrepid writers went shopping at a Uniondale supermarket wearing his gameday Islanders swag- an Islanders hat, and a hockey jersey. At least 3 employees shouted to me “Let’s go Islanders!” and 2 customers commented as well. None of them were white. Now, you may think that such an observation isn’t all that important, but have you ever looked at the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum? It’s a sea of white faces. We don’t know about you guys, but it was surprising to us that there was an obvious show of support from the African America and Latino contingents in Uniondale.
OK, so before we go on, we understand that some people will start to look at this piece through their own lens of racial interpretation and it may cause some discomfort. If anyone, after reading this, would suggest that the authors were racist, well, we don’t know what to tell you. Except that you’re fucking stupid, and anything we could tell you can never fix that.
Getting back to the story- you might suggest that this was a showing of civic pride, in that the Islanders, much like the supermarket, reside in Uniondale. The employees might all even live in Uniondale, furthering that thesis. But not every employee said such, nor is there any kind of endorsement from any supermarkets seen on the coliseum dasherboards- which is kind of surprising at this point considering who sponsors the team.
Anyway, the whole experience got us thinking what we usually think- the New York Islanders REALLY dropped the ball. And right in their own community. Below will be the rationale and reasoning for such, and really, it’s shameful.
Let us start off with the basics, which actually predates Wang. Why have the Islanders NOT sponsored a youth hockey league, or minimally team in the area? Wouldn’t it be sensible to have an Islander sponsored youth league? And if that’s too ambitious, why aren’t the Islanders directly involved in Uniondale schools in developing a hokey program within the district? We get that in the early days, the Islanders had trouble paying the bills. But in recent years- really since the 90’s- this team could have easily supported a hockey program, directly funding one for Uniondale schools. Despite Wang rhetoric, the team wasn’t losing money. After all, if he WAS going broke, then kudos to Kate Murray for seeing through the bluster and realizing that this was in fact a poor billionaire. And we also get that Uniondale schools may not seem like a traditional hockey hotbed, but somehow Long Beach has a hockey community, and it’s famous for being a beach. Ice on a beach?
What makes it even more egregious to us is that Charles Wang – and Sanjay Kumar – are minority owners, especially if you look at ownership around the NHL. Wang has made efforts to start a hockey program in China, but not on Long Island? In the same town in which his “major league” team plays? That’s sickening. Understand that this mean Charles Wang helps China learn to love hockey, while simultaneously flipping the bird to his sporting neighbors and their kids. And moreso, when the Islanders leave Uniondale for Brooklyn, they’re taking their school tax payments away from that district, which will only go to create more ill will.
But what would be the benefit of the Islanders actually giving back to their community? Uniondale has a tradition of supporting their sports teams. It’s also a more financially stable area than its neighbors in Roosevelt and Hempstead. It’s a community that would likely be receptive to a major sports franchise showing that it cares by sponsoring- and I mean ice time, sticks, gear, uniforms, maybe even some coaching as it would be competition level appropriate for Jack Capuano to coach at the high school level- and what would be the cost to the team financially? $20,000? We get that’s their cap on free agent signings, but why can’t it also be spent doing something positive where the team lives?
So, we’re talking cost- but what’s the benefit? Giving back to the local community for starters. Developing a love for hockey in an area that already displays pride in their sporting programs. Developing a non-traditional fan base that actually likes buying and wearing sporting gear as much as any other fan. Making a connection and creating civic pride in an area like Uniondale, which can surely use something to help it stand out among communities without downtowns on Long Island. Especially considering that they are building “Twin Rinks” about a mile away at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.
Again, just to reiterate, the Islanders have started a hockey program in China, and not in Uniondale. How many Chinese players are in the NHL? And how many African American players are in the NHL? Looking at the Islanders roster now and in recent years, you may have noticed that the Islanders have employed Kevin Weekes and Kyle Okposo- why aren’t these the players making that bridge into the local community. Especially considering the team has had Rob Schremp reading books to kids in elementary schools, then trying to pick up their teachers afterwards. By the way, that’s not conjecture- one of the authors was dating one of those teachers he swung at that ended up about as well as his NHL career- miserable. And we can post pictures to prove it.
Even if you aren’t going to support a sports program in your local community, what harm would it be to give out free tickets to Uniondale or Hempstead schools and their families? It’s not like there aren’t 3,000 empty seats on a nightly basis. And not just a one night thing. Sometimes players sponsor areas- I think there were Yashin’s kids after Alexei was given that absurd contract that he couldn’t live up to- so why can’t Josh Bailey actually do something positive with that disgusting overpayment and buy 50 seats for every home game and hand them out in Uniondale. In the 100’s?
In all, this is a colossal ball drop by the Islanders, especially magnified under the clownish ownership of Charles Wang.
And would the community in Uniondale want this? Why not ask them?
Also, wouldn’t it be great to see all of those Rangers or Flyers or Bruins or just about any other team’s fans that turn the Coliseum into an extra home game a few times a year walk into the Coli and just shut the hell up because…well, there are African Americans in the building! And god knows, there’s not much more that makes a white person uncomfortable than having to sit near black people. Showing their Islander pride by wearing Islander jerseys. Folks, that would certainly NOT be more of the same.
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely