The playoffs are a different experience in any sport but playoff hockey, that takes on a completely distinct level. Touted as the best postseason among the four major sports, this year’s Stanley Cup tournament feels different with arenas opening up to more and more fans as many get the COVID-19 vaccine. These playoffs offer the Islanders a unique opportunity to become “cool” on both a regional and national level.
Cool may seem like an odd word to describe it, but the Knicks are cool. Even without this past year’s recent success – and what Kevin Durant may have said after standing them up – cool is more about the celebrity around the team, and this year the Isles certainly seem to have that. The players, coaching staff and Lou Lamoriello do not care about cool, only winning; however, with the brand new UBS Arena opening up, the Islanders are becoming more newsworthy by the minute.
Cool is more than just celebrities attending games, it is the overall aura around the team. The blue and orange faithful nearly blowing the roof off the Coliseum: cool. A state of the art arena with more bars then bathrooms at the Coliseum: cool. Even the star power on the team in Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauviller are cool.
MATHEW BARZAL! 🚨
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 4, 2021
More than anything else, the Islanders are becoming an attraction in the tri-state area and that is something every Islander fan should want to see. It brings notoriety to the team and fun viral moments. Beyond this, the notice the Isles have started to get this postseason really stems from the fans. No building has been louder than the Coliseum this postseason, even when The Barn hosted less than 7,000 fans during the game four win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. From there, we have certainly seen more and more celebrities join the mix, but it was the fans that got the party rolling on Long Island.
— Newsday Sports (@NewsdaySports) June 2, 2021
The energy the fans bring to every game is something almost expected in Isles Country. The team brings its all and the fanbase reciprocates, as head coach Barry Trotz urges the fans to do almost every single night.
“I think they know, bring it, we’re gonna need them, we’re gonna need every one of them just to get through this because we’re playing a very good hockey team,” Trotz said to Mollie Walker of the New York Post. “We want to do it for the area, for our fan base, for ourselves as an organization.”
As for that star power, a lot of it has been local athletes. The New York Jets tried to get some Trotz magic to rub off onto them, as both the offensive line, Zach Wilson and head coach Robert Saleh were in attendance for two separate games, while Nobody will forget Dan Feeney’s antics at the Coliseum.
Let’s go #Isles ❗️
Finish this like you’re Dan Feeney finishing a beer. 🍺 pic.twitter.com/blVuskyGGd
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) May 26, 2021
Beyond the Jets, more and more famous Islanders fans have been much more vocal. Kevin Connolly of Entourage fame has been tweeting nonstop about his childhood team, as has the karate kid himself Ralph Macchio and former NFL player and ESPN analyst Damien Woody. Islanders alumni have also joined the party, with the Hershey Bears’ captain Matt Moulson in attendance and even Nikolay Kulemin traveling in from Russia. Perhaps the biggest name and game-changer from game four of the Boston Bruins series was Clark Gillies, who at the spry age of 67 years old, chugged a beer, propelling the crowd into pandemonium for the remainder of the game.
— x – Frank Isles fan 4ever (@FrankTic3) June 6, 2021
Ultimately “cool” does not win you a championship nor make the team better, but what it does do is bring a fanbase closer together and perhaps more importantly, enjoy the ride. The Nashville Predators from their 2017 Stanley Cup run were an awesome team to follow with Tennessee Titans chugging beer out of fish. Again, this team did not win a championship, but it put the Preds on the map as an awesome fanbase, franchise and overall destination for hockey viewers.
With the UBS Arena on the horizon, it is time for the Islanders to take the next step from the “boring hockey” that they are said to play to a fun and exciting experience full of opportunities to welcome in some of the biggest names inside and out of the hockey world.
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWatling99