Wednesday, May 1, 2013
How Long It's Been: The Islanders Were In the Playoffs
Has it really been so long since this was no big deal? From 1975 to 1988, they made it every year, 14 straight years. In 9 of those years, they were one of the last 4 teams standing. From 1980 to 1984, 5 straight years, they were in the Stanley Cup Finals. That included 19 straight Playoff series won, a North American sports record. And from 1980 to 1983, they won 4 straight Stanley Cups -- still the only team other than the Montreal Canadiens to do that. They made the Conference Finals in 1993, and from 2002 to 2007 made the Playoffs 4 out of 5 times. (Keeping in mind that there was no 2004-05 season.)
They play away to the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. It is their first Playoff game since April 20, 2007, a 4-3 loss, away to the Buffalo Sabres, going out of a Conference Quarterfinal in 5 games -- although 2 of the losses were by 1 goal.
April 20, 2007 to May 1, 2013. That's 6 years and 11 days. How long has it been?
Rick DiPietro was the Isles' starting goaltender. In the 6 seasons since, he has played 113 games. Since 2007-08, just 50. He was then 25 years old; at 31, he seems done. To paraphrase an old line... He wasn't the second coming of Billy Smith, he wasn't even the first coming of Rick DiPietro.
Jaosn Blake scored 40 goals for the '07 Isles, Miroslav Satan 27, Mike Sillinger 26, Viktor Kozlov 25, Trent Hunter 20, Alexei Yashin 19. Blake now plays for the Anaheim Ducks. Hunter was dumped by the Los Angeles Kings before they could win last year's Cup, and hasn't played since February 11, 2012. Satan, Sillinger, Kozlov and Yashin have retired.
(No, I don't know why Satan -- pronounced Sha-TANN, not SAY-tin -- never played for the Devils. Nor do I know why he always seemed to play so well against them.)
Since then, the Ducks and Kings have each won their first Cup. The Boston Bruins hadn't won the Cup since Richard Nixon's 1st term, the Toronto Maple Leafs since Lyndon Johnson's 1 full term, the Chicago Blackhawks since John F. Kennedy's term. The Bruins and Hawks have since won the Cup again -- the Leafs are still waiting.
The Atlanta Thrashers have moved to become the new Winnipeg Jets. The Islanders threatened to move out of the New York Tri-State Area entirely, to Kansas City. So did the Penguins. But the Penguins got the funding for a new arena, and the Isles will be moving from Uniondale/Hempstead to Brooklyn -- still on Long Island, geologically if not politically. In addition, the Yankees, the Mets, the Giants and Jets together, the Nets, the Devils and the Red Bulls have all opened new buildings.
Since the Isles last played a Playoff game, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers have won their 1st Pennants, the Giants have won their 1st and 2nd World Series since moving to San Francisco, the Detroit Lions have become the first NFL team to go 0-16, the New England Patriots have become the first NFL to go 18-0 AND the first to then blow the Super Bowl, and the Dallas Mavericks have won their 1st NBA Title.
The defending World Champions in each sport were the Carolina Hurricanes, the San Antonio Spurs, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of those, only the 'Canes seem like odd winners. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was already really divided, so who cares. Since April 2007, the Olympic Games have been held in China, Canada and Britain, while the World Cup has been held in South Africa.
In soccer, Manchester United cheated their way to the Premier League title. (In related stories, dogs chase cats, and Queen Elizabeth likes to wear hats.) London's Chelsea was in the process of pulling off a "Cup Double": Winning both the FA Cup and the League Cup. AC Milan beat Liverpool in the Champions League Final, gaining revenge for 2 years earlier, when Liverpool came from 3-0 down to beat Milan on penalty kicks.
The President of the United States was George W. Bush, with Dick Cheney pulling his strings. Eliot Spitzer was Governor of New York, but that didn't last long. Michael Bloomberg was Mayor of New York City and unfortunately that did last long. The Governor of New Jersey was Jon Corzine. The Prime Minister of Canada was Stephen Harper; of Britain, Gordon Brown. Of those, only Harper and Bloomberg (until this coming New Year's Day, presuming he doesn't die, resign or get impeached) are still in office.
Major novels of the year were... actually, there weren't any. Or, at least, none have yet stood the test of time. Later in the year, the first Kindle e-book reader was released.
In March 2007, NBC canceled The George Michael Sports Machine, because its host, no relation to the British singer of the same name, was battling cancer, which would kill him in 2009. In April, MSNBC canceled its simulcast of the radio show Imus in the Morning, because Don Imus had something worse than cancer: Bigotry, calling the womens' basketball team at Rutgers University, which had just reached the NCAA Final, "rough girls" and "nappy-headed hos." Jordin Sparks, daughter of former New York Giant cornerback Phillippi Sparks, won American Idol the next month.
The Tudors and Jon & Kate Plus 8 premiered, and I'll leave you to decide which family was more dysfunctional. Stargate SG-1, The Vicar of Dibley, Crank Yankers, Bratz, George Loeze, 7th Heaven, The King of Queens, Gilmore Girls, Crossing Jordan, Veronica Mars, Pimp My Ride, Punk'd, and most controversially judging by the reaction to its finale, The Sopranos all aired their final first-run episodes that spring.
Films premiering in the Spring of 2007 included Blades of Glory, Grindhouse, Disturbia; the 3rd films in the Spider-Man, Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean and Ocean's franchises; and Waitress, which revived Keri Russell's career after her Felicity haircut, and also introduced the 99 percent of us who had never watched Firefly to Nathan Fillion, the future Castle.
Elton John played Madison Square Garden for the 60th time on his 60th birthday, which was a record for The Garden for a musical performer. The Garden "retired his uniform number," raising a banner with his name and the Number 60 to the rafters, to join Billy Joel's Number 12 from his record 12 straight sellouts. A much younger English performer, Joss Stone, released the album Introducing Joss Stone. Which was an odd title for an album by her, since it was her 3rd album.
We had the Internet, but I had not yet gotten on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, nor had I started this blog -- the last of these developments would come the following September. Pinterest had not yet been founded. Nor had Instagram, resulting in Kim Kardashian frequently saying there was nothing to do.
The Islanders' last Playoff game came 4 days after the Virginia Tech massacre. We didn't get serious about guns then. We still haven't.
In April 2007, Boris Yeltsin, and Kurt Vonnegut, and Eddie Robinson died. No one who has yet become particularly famous was born, although, at that point, few people had yet heard the names of Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, or any of the members of One Direction.
April 20, 2007. The New York Islanders were in the Playoffs. Now, 6 years later, they're back in it. How long they last remains to be seen.
But don't get your hopes up. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman loves the Penguins, and will fix the games so that they stay alive long enough for his boyfriend Sidney Crosby to return to action.