Today’s a big day for the future of the New York Islanders. Or, more accurately, it’s a big day for determining whether there will even be a future of the New York Islanders. The most important public hearing for the team’s proposed Lighthouse project — which includes a much-needed renovation of Nassau Coliseum, plus residential and office space, a hotel, a park, and even a canal — is today at Hofstra University, and should the plan fail, it could very well spell the end of the Islanders in New York. (They’re seriously contemplating a move to Kansas City.) This would be a terrible thing for Rangers fans.
Obviously, part of the fun of being a sports fan is having a rival to root against. And part of the fun of having a rivalry is that, unlike a particular game or season or playoff series, it spans generations. Even the most downtrodden fan base knows deep down that the most painful defeat can give way to the sweetest victory. (In this case, one day you’re hearing that insufferable “1940” chant for the thousandth time, then all of a sudden you’re back on top, gleefully singing “We want fish sticks” to prove it.) Just as Islanders fans have great memories of their early eighties dynasty and, well, surely there’s something else (Ziggy Palfy’s mullet, perhaps?), Rangers fans have wonderful memories of “Potvin sucks” chants and cracking jokes about Rick DiPietro’s lifetime contract. Depending on which side you root for, one of those things is lots of fun, and if the Isles leave town, presumably for Kansas City, that all goes away.
We don’t mean to suggest that the project, as proposed, is good or bad for the residents of Long Island. That’s what today’s hearing is for. But purely from a fan’s perspective, no one wants to see a franchise taken away from those who support it, particularly when they finally have something to look forward to. In one sense, if the Islanders do leave town, it would be the ultimate victory for Rangers fans. After all, their team would have outlasted its rival once and for all. (Imagine the insults you could hurl at your former-Isles-fan frends: “Your team is so bad it couldn’t even prove that a megadevelopment tied to a renovated arena would be a boon to the town of Hempstead!”) But it would make things a lot less fun.