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Play-By-Play: Howie Rose's 21 Years With the Isles

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

Howie Rose’s decision to step down as the Islanders’ TV play-by-play announcer wasn’t an easy one. Rose, who’d been in the Islanders’ booth for 21 years, is also the New York Mets radio play-by-play announcer, a relentless schedule that often overlaps, giving the veteran broadcaster virtually no offseason.

He’d been considering scaling back his workload for a while and felt this past season would be his last. So when John Tavares scored the game-winning, series-clinching goal in double-overtime of Game 6 vs. the Florida Panthers, advancing the Isles to the second round for the first time since 1993, it reaffirmed what Rose was already thinking. He left the building on the ultimate high note, calling it the most significant and enjoyable Isles moment of his broadcast career. Rarely do any of us get that opportunity.

“When Tavares scored that goal I just went home with such a smile on my face, such a warmth because I know what it means to a lot of great people in the organization and to all the great fans,” Rose said. “And if anyone was perfect to finally get them over that hump it was JT, who’s a very special person and I hope is an Islander forever because he epitomizes everything that you want the leader and best player of a contending team to be. For him to have scored that goal had me go home thinking, if this is it, you can’t script it any better than that. It was the perfect way for me to go out.”

HOWIE ROSE ON JOHN TAVARES' SERIES-CLINCHING GOAL

The news broke Wednesday, and on Thursday, Rose took stock of his two decades in the Isles’ broadcast booth, recapping all the memorable moments from the last two decades.

Rose remembers his first game, helping open the Fleet Center (now TD Garden) in Boston in 1995 and calling the game alongside the team’s first captain Eddie Westfall. Having already been a part of New York’s hockey scene, he had connections with many of the players from the early days and dynasty era, whom he credits with helping him in the transition.

“I want to salute and thank from the bottom of my heart the Islander alumni for how unequivocally they seemed to accept me from the very beginning,” Rose said. “Even though I knew those players for a long time, going back to the beginning of the franchise, I wasn’t sure how they would receive me... Anybody part of that Cup team who I got to know over the years were fabulous accepting me and making the transition easier and I am forever indebted to them for that.”

HOWIE ROSE ON THE ISLANDERS ALUMNI

Rose had previously covered the Rangers, so he had to earn the respect and trust of Islanders fans. It’s tougher to take the temperature of a fanbase without Twitter, but there was no denying the night he knew he’d earned their approval; the night the Islanders retired Bryan Trottier’s number, with Rose as the on-ice MC.

“When the PA announcer announced me I got a wonderful ovation from the crowd. That moment sealed for me my acceptance as an Islander,” Rose said. “It took a while, but when I heard that reaction that day, I figured we were over that hump and I felt like I was a fully accepted Islander.”

The Islanders retired Trottier’s number on Oct. 20, 2001, the start of Rose’s favorite season with the team. The Islanders finished 42-28-8, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and Rose ranks the night they clinched as one of the handful of greatest nights he ever experienced with the Islanders.

HOWIE ROSE ON HIS FAVORITE ISLANDERS SEASON

“That was my favorite year, 01-02, because that’s when we started to see everything the Islanders could be on Long Island,” Rose said.

His favorite season extended to the playoffs, a violent, but enthralling seven-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs that still invokes feelings in Islanders fans.

“The battle they had with Toronto was a battle of tremendous physical proportions,” he said. “It was one of my favorite playoff series I’ve ever done. It was ugly, it was dirty, it was brutal, it was fantastic. It was everything that hockey was supposed to be.”

The Shawn Bates penalty shot to win Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum stands out as one of the most memorable instances.

“I really thought the roof was going to come off the Coliseum that night,” he said.

What really stands out through the literally thousands of games was the people he called them with and the connections he made with his broadcast partners: Westfall, Joe Micheletti, Billy Jaffe and Butch Goring.

HOWIE ROSE ON BUTCH GORING

He said he had tremendous respect for Westfall as a player and a person, an appreciation that grew with the more he learned the game. Rose called his time with Micheletti “a gift,” citing his “prescience” for calling goals just by watching the flow of the game. He said he’s still good friends with Jaffe and enjoyed their time together. As for his current partner, he said Butch’s instincts were incredible, as was his ability to learn the tricks of the broadcasting trade so well, despite getting in the game late. But as he noted, Butch is accomplished in nearly every aspect of the game.

This collection of moments and people, and a 50-year relationship with the game, made Rose’s decision hard, but he’s doing what’s right for him. Rose is still calling Mets games on WOR radio, so the longtime Seinfeld fan isn’t quite going to Del Boca Vista yet. But after breaking the news on Wednesday, Islanders fans took to Twitter to express their thanks to Rose, for literally talking them through the last two decades. It was greatly appreciated by Rose.

HOWIE ROSE THANKS FANS, ISLANDERS

“The genuine nature of thanks that I seem to get more than anything and the reinforcement in the broadcast business,” Rose said of the tributes. “Optimally we make a connection and I felt that connection so strongly yesterday having heard from all those people who said so many wonderful things that believe me, the connection will never be severed. They are a part of me forever. The Islanders are a part of me forever.”

“The fans, the organization, the players, the management, the new ownership… I’m tied to them forever, I’m proud of that, I’m happy for that and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Thanks for everything, Howie.

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