Pride, Anxiety, Relief

Throughout this historic season in Uniondale, I’ll be jotting down my emotions during every game I attend. While others in the press box are typing who scored and how the play transpired, I’ll be adding slightly more emotional depth to specific things happening during the game.

The second installment is from the Islanders’ 3-2 victory over Chicago on Dec. 13:
I experienced the same emotional output as last time, the one where I was tearing up as the team hit the ice, only this time Islanders legend Clark Gillies greeted the men as they touched blade to ice.

Gillies dropped the ceremonial first puck to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and Islanders’ captain John Tavares. Gillies was wearing his white home captain’s jersey as well. It was perfect. I was thrilled to attend this game since I missed the other legends events this season so far.

After a brief sluggish start to the game, Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak kept the Isles alive early. He was making save after save, on breakaways, fast breaks and everything in between. It was an instant reminder of how great the acquisition of Halak was this off-season. It has proved to be one of the best moves General Manager Garth Snow has made in recent years.

I quickly disregarded the first 10 minutes of play and immediately began to see the Islanders hockey that we’ve become accustomed to this year. They looked good, very good. And that’s without some of their starting defensemen on the ice.

Aside from the three-game skid prior to this game against the Blackhawks, the Isles have been one of the hottest teams in the league. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

They’re equally as entertaining to watch as they are to write about and root for.
It was rewarding to see two dominant teams play very aggressively on both sides of the puck.

The Islanders did not allow a shot for the first 9 minutes of the second period. They were out skating, out shooting, out poke checking, and out hustling the Blackhawks in every aspect of the game. This was the type of hockey I had been waiting to see in this building basically forever.
“They were a dangerous team,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville after the game. “They lost a couple tough games in a row, you know they’re going to be excited. Give them credit.”

Of course the Blackhawks scored first, on just their second shot of the period with 5:35 left in the stanza. I know that feeling all too well. Just when you think they’re playing well, the other team gets a good break and scores.

Cal Clutterbuck, however, scored a goal immediately off the next faceoff. He intercepted a clearing attempt from Chicago, shot and scored and the old barn erupted. Like I said, not the Islanders you’re used to.

It’s sickening how many fans cheered when the Blackhawks scored their second goal of the game. There were a lot of red jerseys visible at the game. I wonder if they’re actual fans, or just frontrunners, or Rangers fans in drag. Are they Chicago transplants who now live in New York City? I do know a ton of people who’ve migrated here from Chicago, so that does seem like a viable option. But, still, too many.

chris vaccaro

Chris R. Vaccaro is a journalist, author and professor from Long Island. Vaccaro, who serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Topps Company's digital division, is an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra University, the President of the Press Club of Long Island and has written five books about Long Island sports history.