Over the last couple of weeks a very interesting occurrence has transpired. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics or the economy, or any news about celebrity dating habits. No, this occurrence comes from the world of sports. Before I start to embellish you with what this means, I want to give a little history lesson and a personal history lesson as well.
I went to college at a small SUNY school in upstate New York. My undergraduate alma mater is SUNY Potsdam. I started school at SUNY Potsdam in the fall of 1979. My initial time was very uneventful. My grades were passable but not exemplary. I was underage when I first got into college and had never really been a partier, and this meant that I spent my first semester studying very hard on the weekends. At a certain point I decided that I needed to branch out and open up my mind to complete the college experience. In other words, Beer Blasts were okay in my book!
This idyllic college experience went on for one year. In my second year, my father passed away from Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. While my father was in the hospital, I made a promise to him that I would finish my schooling at Potsdam and get my degree. Little did I know that this would be one of the most difficult things that I would ever have to finish. A week after my father was buried, I was driving back to school, but this time I had a small black and white television in tow with me.
My Therapy Begins
Now you might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with the New York Islanders?” When I was driving home from my first year of school, I was listening to the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals on my radio in the car. I actually heard the Islanders win the Stanley Cup on Bobby Nystrom’s overtime goal at 7:11 of Overtime as I was on the road. This whole “winning a championship thing” was unknown on Long Island. At first the powers that be did not know what to do. They thought about having a parade in Manhattan, but then again they were not the New York City Islanders, they were the New York Islanders geographically and fan-base-wise from Long Island. Also, I believe New York City turned the Islanders down about having a parade there. They eventually settled on having a parade down Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County.
That was in Spring, 1980, but now I was staring at a whole different set of personal circumstances in the early part of 1981. My father’s passing and funeral occurred in November 1980. I drove back up to school with a million different things running through my head. The grief was unbelievable. I felt like I was someone else, someone who was in pain all the time, not a physical pain just this incredible annoying pressure that was there all the time. I knew I had to find an outlet. I talked to some counselors at school and they suggested that I should find something that could take my mind off the pain and grief even for small periods of time. With this in mind I knew exactly what I needed to do. I found an open cable outlet in the bowels of my dorm: Lehman House 2.
NY Islanders Dynasty 1980-1984
I would get the New York Times and mark the calendar for days when there would be a game. On those days I would trudge down into the basement of the dorm, attach the cable, and turn on WOR channel 9 and watch the Islanders seasons unfold before me. I didn’t become a fan just because I loved hockey, I became a fan because I needed an outlet that reminded me of home and kept me in touch with who I was. I was also thinking about the future of success and happiness I was grappling toward. The fact that I learned to love hockey in this process is a delightful afterthought for what they did for me.
Bossy, Trottier, Smitty, Potvin, Morrow, Langevin, Sutter, these names mean nothing to the average person, but these were the guys who helped me more than they will ever know. I watched as Mike Bossy scored 50 goals in 50 games, I watched as the team powered its way to its second Stanley Cup in 1981, and then a third Stanley Cup in 1982, and then the most satisfying Stanley Cup of all was number four when they swept the Edmonton (Oilers) Gretzky’s in 1983. As fate would have it, the Islanders and Oilers faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1984, but this time the result was different. On the day that I graduated from SUNY Potsdam, May 19, 1984, the Islanders lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Edmonton Oilers. I always look at that moment in a surreal, dreamlike fashion. It was as though the Islanders were saying, “we helped you get through college, and now our work is done!” I know this is just my musings, but it does seem very coincidental that this was the last time the NY Islanders made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
We Move on and Overcome the Pain
Little things keep us focused. Little things help us stay sane. Little things can erase pain for a period of time. The New York Islanders did that for me. I know I would’ve found a way to get through the worst period in my life if there were no New York Islanders. All I know is that there was a New York Islanders team that was amazingly good at a time when I needed them and they helped me through the roughest period in my life.
I will always be an NY Islanders fan. It doesn’t matter where I live, or where they are in the standings. Of all of my sports allegiances, this is the one that can never be broken.
Now that I live in Denver I went to the game on October 30 between the Islanders and the Avalanche. Unfortunately, it was not a good game for the Islanders who ended up getting shut out 5-0. It doesn’t matter, they are still my team but I do hope this winning thing they have going on is not just a flash in the pan. I support them either way, but it’s so much sweeter when they are good and winning. Start the Chant…
Funny that this fan has a story to tell… I’m sure there are others out there with a similar story. Let’s Go Islanders! Let’s Go Islanders! Let’s Go Islanders!
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