He‘s as recognizable in the Coliseum as Sparky, and he smells better. His photo has popped up in some of the most reputable sports publications out there. He is our own Cyberlebrity and one of my favorite posters on the NY Islanders Country message board. Sure, every hockey team has a fan or two that becomes that fan mascot, but ours comes with his own billboards and a great imagination.
SignGuyhas been there to cheer on the team and their fans, even in the roughest of times. I decided I had to ask him a few questions, just so others could get to know him. SignGuy, who is reluctant to grant interviews, was kind enough to answer me via email as it seems he‘s a little shyer than you would expect of someone who has gained so much recognition..
Dee Karl: When did you start bringing these signs into the Coliseum?
Sign Guy: I started bringing signs to games in the early eighties. Back then it wasn’t as easy to make them, although cheaper to make than it is now. With the computer and printers that is. (In the 80’s) Lettering everything by hand with markers including drawing the Islanders logo was a task. So the signs back then did not appear as often as they do now.
DK: Do you ever have a problem getting them inside? I( had to ask this considering I‘ve had problems getting lots of things into the coliseum past security.)
SG: Occasionally I've been stopped by security. (Boy -- that pisses me off) I think they just want to be nosy. So, in the past, at playoff time when things got really tight at the gates, I had made arrangements with (ex VP of Communications) Chris Botta or Tim Beach to enter through the press area. That's a more civilized way to go in and I didn’t have security asking “What’s it say?”
(Come on, they just want first crack at seeing them. That’s all.)
DK: Of all the signs you’ve created over the years, what's your favorite?
SG: That's a hard one. “JUST BELIEVE. 16,294 OF US DO!” was unveiled during the intense Toronto playoff series. It¹s a favorite of mine that has gotten the most notoriety over the years and is actually still appearing today. (August, US Hockey News).
But there are a few more that I’ve had more fun with in the stands. There was one that appeared in The Hockey News during the 80s when the Isles and Rags met up in the playoffs. It showed our logo and our four Stanley Cups. The words read: “THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBORS GOODS.” Another sign tormenting the Rags was actually my first 3-D sign. The words read: “THE ONLY CUP THE RANGERS WILL EVER CARRY! “ Pasted underneath was a real protective cup from an athletic supporter. I actually had the “balls” (no pun intended) to hold it high when the Rangers bus left that night.
This might be my all-time favorite. It appeared the season after the brutal Toronto playoff series. It was the first time the teams met in early 2003. On the left was a photo of Shane Corson getting his ass kicked by Eric Cairns. On the right the words read: “SEASONS GREETINGS!” Even Corson gave me a thumbs up when he saw it.”
I have two favorites, one he made for me (digitally) that said “Let’s Go Dee” for my NY Islanders fan of the year award game in January of ‘06. That was about the nicest thing he could have done for me. But he’s just that kind of guy!
My next personal favorite was the one he brought to the home opener in 2005, the first game at the Coliseum after the “work stoppage.” The NYIC message board had the best turn out for a Gate 1 Meet and Greet on that very rainy night in October. Members came from over to be there, and SignGuy was in the center with a sign that said it all, “We Kept the Light On.” And we certainly did. There wasn’t a day that went by that the faithful fans of the Islanders didn’t gather to talk and ponder the situation. So basically, the light we kept on was our computer screens that never turned off.
DK: Has any employee from the Islanders front office ever approached you about your signs? And if so, what's your best story about that?
SG: I don’t have one. Not sure if they even notice the signs. I make them for the support of my team and for the fans. But there was one sign that made a road trip. A quote I used from Trent Hunter. I left the sign for him after a crucial game that the Isles won. The sign traveled with the team to Pittsburg for the next game and the first intermission was focused around the sign and a Hunter interview. It was cool to see that it made it to the Igloo.
As bad as things can get, my signs are never negative. I always try to take a positive spin. Oh yeah! I forgot about this one during the Buffalo Playoff Series. The photo showed a portion of the Stanley Cup. The words read: “KEEP THE PRESIDENT’S TROPHY. WE'LL TAKE THIS ONE!” I’ll always remember the fun I had with the signs over the years and I’ll never forget the time I was walking up the stairs after warm ups and a man pointed me out to his little son; “That's SignGuy!” And I wasn’t even carrying a sign! GO ISLES!
Funny that SignGuy should bring that “Believe” one up. Ex Newsday Islanders beat writer Alan Hahn used a photo of him with that sign for the dust jacket of his book “Fish Sticks” (which is still a good read if you haven’t yet done so.) So I asked Alan what he remembered of our NYIC Mascot, and what I got was an Islanders fan’s true reaction being able to talk freely about Islanders hockey. As Hahn is now a “basketball guy,” covering the Knicks for Newsday, I don’t get to enjoy his articles the way I used to, but I will occasionally read them as I miss his sense of humor.
“Hi Dee! I remember him a little. Didn't really meet him or know him personally. I know one piece of trivia from the jacket cover was that his number - 16,294 - was actually not the correct Coliseum capacity. I don't know if he guessed or got the wrong info (or thought maybe a handful of the actual capacity DIDN'T believe! Ha ha). But he was a creative guy and came up with a lot of signs.”
“What I loved about the Coliseum - it was real. Those people in that building are creative and passionate. The chants that come up are hysterical. How they made Steve Webb a legend or the cat calls and anger that spewed toward Fleury, Barnaby and Avery...hilarious. That building is one of the last "real" sports arenas left. An old school barn that, when the team is good or the stakes are high, is one of the loudest and intimidating places in sport. Even the rat poo as you're heading down the back stair of the press box adds to the charm. Dee I still think about that 2001-02 season and I still wonder “what if” about several things, such as the Tucker hit on Peca and the Kenny Jonsson injury. And I also wonder what if management decided to side with the "Good Ol Boys" instead of backing Yashin.”
“I blame myself for not hammering away more at Yashin. I am frustrated that only as I got to know Snow, Aucoin, Parrish, Peca et al (the real core guys of that room) did I realize what was going on there. Laviolette should still be the coach here. Those guys should have stayed together and had a decent run. I'm not saying they would have won a Cup but they would have been a very competitive team. And that building would have rocked more like it did in 2002. Something was lost after that season and it's hard to figure out what without starting with No. 79.”
No matter if he is a “basketball guy” or not, Alan Hahn, author of TWO excellent books on the NY Islanders (Fish Sticks & Birth of a Dynasty) is STILL an Islander fan. And five bucks says he always will be.
Thanks to SignGuy for granting me the opportunity of getting some answers out of him, and Thanks to Alan Hahn, for always being receptive to my questions. He probably doesn’t even realize that he was instrumental in setting me on this path of notorious Blogerism.
Um, Alan… My husband would like a word with you.
Note: To view more photos of SignGuys' work, please visit my BlogBox site www.7thwoman.blogspot.com