Matt’s Minute


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By MATT McCORMACK

STAFF WRITER

Hockey is admittedly not my area of expertise when it comes to sports.  In fact, even though hockey is one of the four major sports in America, I find myself ignoring it most of the time.  This is partly (or probably solely) due to the fact that I was unfortunate enough to be raised an Islanders fan.  For almost my entire life, the Islanders have been one of the worst franchises in professional sports.  This fact was instilled in me at an early age: whenever my dad would take me to Islander games, more than half the arena was filled with empty seats, and the other half basically paid money to watch a team that had fallen into the deepest, darkest recesses of despair and irrelevance.

To call the Islanders a horrible team was a severe understatement.  The New York Jets are an example of a team that is simply horrible.  The common NFL fan knows all about Mark Sanchez’ infamous “butt fumble” and other mishaps surrounding the team.  The plague that befell the Islanders was much worse: their horrible play quickly submerged the franchise into a state of irrelevance.  This seems like a major generalization, but I would bet money that 90 percent of New Yorkers don’t even know the Islanders exist.  It is the sad truth for a franchise that once dominated the sport, capturing four Stanley Cup championships in a row and cementing themselves as one of the most dynamic dynasties in sports.

I’m not going to dwell on the various reasons why the Isles fell into obscurity, but instead focus on their recent resurgence into the realm of respectability.  They have taken a giant leap forward this year: with only six games left, they are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference and have a very good chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.  The fact that they are even in the playoff conversation is cause for celebration for Islander fans.  It finally hit me while watching the Isles-Rangers game on Saturday night: after spending many years in the cellar of their conference, the Islanders have finally started to regain some respect in the NHL.  There was definitely playoff-esque intensity at the Coliseum, and even though the Rangers won, it is absolutely great to see the Isles play meaningful games in April and hopefully in May.  I can’t remember the last time my heart was practically in my mouth while watching a hockey game, and the disappointment I felt when the Isles lost can actually be viewed as a positive: Islander games matter once again.

Of course, there has been almost no major media coverage of the Isles’ resurgence, and that is to be expected.  They will have to keep up their high level of play for a much longer period of time if they want to continue to garner respect in the NHL and sports world in general.  This season has proved, however, that they have definitely made major strides towards accomplishing this goal.  Hopefully by this time next year, the Islanders will have regained a fraction of the respect they used to command.