Queens, NY – It had been 23 years since the New York Islanders were able to get to the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs. Fortunately for them their first round opponent was the perennially mediocre Florida Panthers whose postseason futility nearly matched the Islanders since they hadn’t won a playoff series since 1996.
The Isles dispatched of the Panthers in six games and the way the New York media reacted you would have thought that they had won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1983. Some of the hype is understandable since the Devils did not qualify for the playoffs and the Rangers were knocked off with ease in round one by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Throw in the fact that both the Knicks and Nets’ NBA seasons ended in April, the Islanders were in the unusual circumstance of having the New York playoff sports stage all too themselves. Their luck ran out in round two however on Sunday when they lost 4-0 in Game 5 to the NHL’s other Florida team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Islanders had no answer for Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Islanders star scorer, center John Tavares, was basically a ghost in the series and no one else on the blue and orange stepped up.
Jon Ledecky, who grew up in Bayside, and his fellow fiancier, Scott Malkin, will become majority owners of the Islanders on July 1 as they’ll switch roles with current CEO Charles Wang. While the Islanders are improving they are still a long way from being legitimate Stanley Cup contenders as the team is still basically John Tavares and four other guys on the ice.
Improving the player personnel is just one issue facing them. The Isles’ current home, the Barclays Center, did not exactly draw rave reviews. For some reason, it was not built with hockey in mind and there were a lot of seats with obstructed views. The team’s so-called radio network, whose flagship is Hofstra University’s WRHU-FM, is rinky-dink by New York professional sports team standards.
While the Islanders were enjoying their moment in the playoff sun, iconic WFAN afternoon drivetime air personality Mike Francesa called the Islanders public relations department third-rate because of their inability to get players or coaches on his show.
Based on my experiences, Mike is right on the money. The Islanders have not provided me any media access over the last five years which has resulted in my inability to write much about them. Hockey is a niche sport and the Islanders don’t exactly command the back page.
Nowadays, disposable income and leisure time are both at a premium and there are a plethora of entertainment options out there for the consumer. Ledecky and Malkin would be wise to ensure that the Islanders step up their media relations game.