(Written April 7th, 2002)
The Islanders have clinched a playoff spot. For the first time since that disaster in 1994 when we were swept by the Rangers in the first round, we will be in the playoffs.
Going from last in the league to being in the playoffs - the thought just blows me away. I was crying as I read the postgame articles on newyorkislanders.com. Chris Botta wrote a beautiful dedication piece, which can be found here.
In my mind, the lion's share of the credit goes to the owners, Mr. Wang and Mr. Kumar. Without their financial backing, we would have nothing. No Alexei Yashin, no Mike Peca, no Chris Osgood. Much of the rest of the credit goes to Peter Laviolette, who has given the team the leadership it needed to come this far. Hopefully, in his rookie year as a head coach, Lavy will be able to lead the Isles even farther, to the - dare I say it? - Stanley Cup finals.
I did not abandon this team because it was in the basement. In freshman year of high school, sophomore year, I was a stalwart defender of the Isles, to the point of being proud that even though the Isles finished next to last in the division, it was the Rangers that were last, if only by two points.
I abandoned this team (if what I did could be called abandoning. More like I became cynical) because its then owners abandoned it and the fans. I was hurt. First Spano, who it turned out was an embezzler, then the sell-off of 1999 where the only decent players were traded for cash. When the team was taken over, I was too afraid of more heartbreak to return. It took the undefeated October to restore the faith of myself and other jaded fans. But when we came back, we came in full force. Twenty sell-outs this season, and two home games left. We will make it twenty-two.
The drive for five has started again, and is gaining steam rapidly. Will it be enough to knock all the other teams out of the way and gain Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time in eighteen years? I sure as hell hope so. (And I hope someone will bring the Cup to Cafe Continental again! They brought it there in '83 and my family was there. I was there cuz Mom was pregnant with me, but I'd like to see the Cup for myself!)