The 2011-2012 season is right around the corner! As many of you know, this will be the Islanders' 40th season on Long Island. Management has already put a number of tributes in place to honor the special season (just look at that beautiful logo on the ice).
In a nod to their storied history, the Islanders will hold four “Decade Nights” throughout the season. On each night, a vital member of the Islanders' past glories will be inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame.
Ed Westfall, the face of the early Islanders, will be honored on November 19th. Number 18, who played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League, will be inducted on a night when the Islanders face the only other franchise he played for, the defending champion Boston Bruins. As most of you know, he was the first captain in Islanders history and is a fine choice to represent the decade of the 1970s.
Ken Morrow, who I had the pleasure of meeting, was a critical part of the 1980 "Miracle" Olympic team and the Islanders Stanley Cup dynasty. In a career spent entirely on Long Island, he was a great defenseman during the Cup years. I am still amazed at his +53 rating during the 1981-1982 season, arguably the greatest Islanders team ever (54-16-10, 118 points). His night will be held on New Year's Eve, December 31st.
Pat Flatley, who tallied 488 points in his Islanders career, will be honored as the player of the 1990s. He was the fifth captain in team history, and captained the last Islanders squad to win a playoff series (1992-1993). (Hopefully we won't be able to say that much longer, but I digress). Islanders Hall of Fame honors will be bestowed upon him on January 14th, 2012.
The last of the honorees will be Swedish defenseman, and one of my personal favorites, Kenny Jonsson. The quiet defenseman's work is sometimes overlooked by fans, but he was a key to the teams that returned the Isles back to respectability in the early 2000s. He is now a coach in his native Sweden, but will return to Long Island for a very special evening on February 11th, 2012.
While I am pleased that the Islanders are choosing to swell the ranks of their Hall of Fame with the above men, I have one constructive criticism of its setup.
The aforementioned men all played vital parts in franchise history. They will each be honored with a bronze plaque and have their names added to the banner that hangs from the Nassau Coliseum roof.
However, I believe Halls of Fame are for the people to enjoy, and a way for the fans to connect with their team's history.
The Islanders currently mount their plaques immediately outside the home dressing room, in the hallway. The players pass images of former great Islanders on their way out to the ice. Many of these men have been honored in the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto also. The idea is to inspire the players to greatness.
However, I think the team would be better served moving the plaques to a public area where they could be seen and enjoyed by the fans. I know there are plans to do this if and when the Islanders get a new building. I just think it should be done now. Perhaps the lower concourse, where the New York Sports Hall of Fame once occupied space, could be used.
I once visited Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. At the time the building was old, the team was miserable, and the entire atmosphere was bland. But one thing they did right was to have their Hall of Fame plaques on display in the concourse. Fans could stop by, read them, touch them, and perhaps hear a story from a family member about a player.
Similarly, the New York Mets now have a public Hall of Fame, a great improvement over what they had at Shea Stadium.
It serves the Islanders no purpose to have their legends tucked away in an area that the fans can't access.
I know it seems petty, but I think it would be a positive change for the new season.
Fans, remember that the Rookie game versus Boston is on Tuesday night (9/13) at 7 PM at Nassau Coliseum. See you there!