The New York food held its first alumni day since 1994 on Saturday, and it was a resounding success. Players from multiple generations, from the original Mets to Division and World Series champions, have appeared along with fan favorites from the toughest times in team history.
The players were older, grayer and slower, but nonetheless, they put on their uniforms and played. The nostalgia was thick with the return of familiar names and faces providing an opportunity to reminisce about the most memorable moments in franchise history. Whatever era was most important to the fans in attendance, there was something or someone there for them.
At the dawn of their 50th year, the New York Islanders could create their own special tradition building on a tradition they have already started. They should play a home game.
Island co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin highlighted the importance of alumni events in recent years and the mantra “once an island, always an island”. Recent alumni weekends have been a loud and joyous celebration of Island hockey.
A key part of this has been the welcoming spirit of the property. The concept for a grad weekend came from Bryan Trottier, Pat Flatley and Glenn Healy, and after a quick “Yes!” of Ledekcy, the first weekend was in 2017, with the guest list extending to players some even the most diehard may not have heard of, let alone remember. For example, during the 2018 grad weekend, the list of players included Don Cuttsa team drafted goalkeeper who has dressed as a substitute four times but has never played in a game. Once and islanders, always an islander In effect.
“”The sincerity of the ownership group is beyond words. They have extended it to all players, not just players who have had 10 years of career, they want everyone to be involved in this organization.”
– Mick Vukota
Last April, with a dark backdrop following the passage of island legends Clark Gillies, Jean Potvinand Mike Bossy, the weekend was an opportunity for former teammates to reunite, reflect and pay tribute to those they miss. “It’s still very tender and raw,” Trottier said of losing his former teammates. “It’s really hard to talk about it, but when we got together, we toasted. We toasted them. They’re still there in spirit.”
Now is the time to consider another step, one that would be unique to Islanders.
During the 2022 alumni weekend, a rivalry game was held at the Northwell Ice Center in East Meadow between the Islanders and New York Rangers. The game starring Pierre Turgeon, Benoit Hougue, Mariusz Czerkawski, and others raised $25,000 for the Northwell Health Foundation. Turgeon marked in the shootout as the Islanders won 9-8. So if they can play a game there, why not play in the Islanders’ brand new, fourth-generation arena?
Here is the idea: Play an Alumni Classic at UBS Arena before a regular Islanders home game as the highlight of the Alumni weekend. It can be played between Islanders, against the NYR, or maybe a collection of former NHL players. They can play 5v5 or even 3v3 (Trottier is familiar with that after his 3ICE Patrick Cup championship). The match doesn’t happen every year, maybe every four to keep it fresh with young Islanders alumni able to participate.
If baseball fans are willing to spend hours outside in the sun watching players in their 40s, 50s and 60s, why couldn’t the UBS Arena, with all its amenities, accommodate fans for an exhibition the afternoon which will be followed by an Islanders home game? I think Belmont Hall would be quite festive.
A Shawn Bates penalty shot on Kelly Hrudey? Wade Dubielewicz try to check Derek King? What would you say Garth Snow try to stop Ryan Smith? The possibilities are limitless. Who knows, maybe we haven’t seen the last of John Tavares in an Isles uniform?