|Garth Snow and Ted Nolan |
On Wednesday night in the Nassau Coliseum, Islanders fans heard from the Islanders' leaders about the franchise's plans both on and off the ice. Islanders owner Charles Wang, GM Garth Snow, head coach Ted Nolan and Senior VP of Sales, Marketing and Operations Chris Dey were among the speakers at a special Town Hall event that provided a clearer picture to Islanders "stakeholders" – the fans – about the direction of their team.
Following tours of the Islanders locker room, visits to the Fan Fest and a meet-and-greet with Islanders legend Mike Bossy, the main event took place at 7:45 pm as each Islanders leader gave a presentation.
Chris Dey presented the organization's plans to increase the season ticket base and membership in the Islanders Business Club. He also discussed the Islanders' intensive efforts in the community, showcasing videos on the Coliseum scoreboard that highlighted the team's civic efforts, including RexCorp Islanders Inspire. The Islanders continue to be among the leading major professional sports teams in community involvement.
"This night is for you, the fans," began Dey. "Having an open dialogue with the fans is the right thing to do. Being a fan, you feel a very large sense of emotional ownership of the team. Because of that it makes you a very valuable stakeholder in the team. It's your right to know about the future of this team, and we're going to continue to invest in you."
A Lighthouse Project video then aired before Charles Wang made a surprise appearance. Charles answered a series of questions from Islanders play-by-play announcer Steve Mears about the Lighthouse Project, shedding light on the project's progression and future.
"We hope to break ground in July 2009," said Charles. "We believe after four years of environmental studies everything will be approved by the Town of Hempstead by the end of this year. The first project is the transformation of the Coliseum. We'll start with the lower bowl and everything will be gutted. From the inside-out there will be a brand new arena. To start the 2009-10 season, we'll start on the road and return home in late October. By the end of two seasons, it will all be done. As for your part, we're asking the fans to do whatever they can to talk to the officials and tell them how important the Lighthouse is. We're talking about 16,000 new jobs. My new line has been, 'coming soon to a parking lot near you – the Lighthouse.'"
|Charles Wang |
It was on to more hockey matters from there, as Charles introduced Garth Snow, whose message was clear.
"Who wants to win a Stanley Cup?" was Snow's opening question to the crowd. He then detailed how he plans to build the team through the draft, development of prospects and timely free agent signings and trades. Snow's presentation included a video from Islanders TV highlighting some of the top prospects available when the Islanders select 5th overall in the NHL draft.
"Average is as close to the top as it is to the bottom, and I'm sick of being average," said Snow. "We've developed a strategy to become competitive every year, which is the key to winning the Stanley Cup. It's called "The Plan." And it involved three parts: drafting wisely, developing prospects and sprinkling in free agents. We're putting in all the resources to bringing home a Stanley Cup. We need you the fans to help make this happen. We want you to continue to be the great fans that you are and we'll make this happen together."
"We appreciated hearing about the plans for the Islanders for the next year and the direction the team is heading," said Eric Raclaw from Forest Hills, who was at the Coliseum with his son Justin. "It's a really nice thing what the Islanders did to keep all of the fans involved. It can only help the club."
Nolan was next on the podium, emphasizing the importance of developing the young talent.
"We're all very disappointed about this season, but we thank you for all of your support," said Nolan. "The guys battled right until the end and you stuck with this right until the end. I know it was a painful, but mark my words we're coming back with a vengeance. The future looks bright. Guys like Brendan Witt are the type of players we want to build this team around. The biggest thing is development. You look at the progress of the young guys like Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais. They now have more experience, which will help them further develop next season."
It was at this time that fans had the opportunity to hear their questions answered. The submitted questions to newyorkislanders.com were not taken lightly with many pertaining to some hard-hitting topics.
Snow was asked about his working relationship with Nolan.
"I think it's good," said Snow, smiling to Nolan before answering seriously. "We have a great working relationship. The key is communication and we communicate on a daily basis. I get taken aback when I get asked that question."
The GM was asked if the Islanders need a Steve Webb-type agitator.
"We have players to get under the skin," said Snow. "We have Witt, Bergenheim and Trent Hunter, who is among the league leaders in hits. But that doesn't mean we won't rule out getting another through free agency."
A popular question to Nolan was about which young players were ready for prime time next season.
"I think if you look at Bergie and Comeau, they had a full NHL season," said Nolan. "They went through some ups and downs and that will make their progress all the more better next year. Now guys like Campoli and Gervais have three years under their belt and even Okposo now has played some games in the NHL. The added experience is going to make them all better players next season."
He was also asked why Jeff Tambellini has not been able to score consistently at the NHL level.
|Chris Dey |
"That's a million dollar question," admitted Nolan. "There are a whole bunch of reasons. The NHL is a little different than the AHL. The players are bigger and the goalies are better. Some people take a little longer to adapt. You look at a player like Andy Hilbert, who scored over 100 points in the AHL, who now plays a different role effectively. You almost have to be a chameleon and adapt your game. Look at Bryan Trottier, who redefined his game in Pittsburgh. There are no bigger supporters than the people in this room. Sometimes you have to be a little patient."
After the presentation, Islanders fans took notice of the franchise's willingness to be open about their vision for the seasons ahead.
"I was interested in finding out about the young players, and whether guys like Jeff Tambellini would get more of a chance next season," said Keith Levine from Merrick, who had his question answered directly by Snow. "The Islanders are very open compared to other teams around the league and the fans like that about them."
"I want to thank you for all of your support," said Charles. "Until we get the Stanley Cup, I will not be happy and neither should you. We learned a lot from this season, and we're committed to making this better for next year. Failure is not fatal. Failure to change is fatal."Check out Islanders TV Thursday morning to see the entire presentation, including the answers to the fan-submitted questions.
ISLANDERS ENTRY DRAFT PARTY
Save The Date – June 20!
The Islanders will host an NHL Entry Draft Party at the Coliseum when the team selects fifth overall in the first round on Friday night, June 20. Save the date and stay tuned to newyorkislanders.com for more details on the return of the Draft Party!