This is the story of an Islanders fan, who requested anonymity but wanted to explain the importance of this team in his life.
"Ever since I was two years of age, I have fallen in love with the game of hockey. My father, born and raised in Montreal, made sure I had a pair of ice skates long before I received my first baseball mitt. My father started taking me to Islanders games as soon as we moved to Long Island, and I instantly became a fan.
Hockey has been my life, from as far back as I can remember. It has shaped the fabric of my identity. I'd like to say the way in which I follow the Islanders transcends even that of the hardcore hockey fan. I will explain.
I was teased throughout most of my elementary years. My fellow peers did not think I was at their level, and frankly, it was the most depressing time period of my entire life. Everyone always told me that I wouldn't amount to anything, that I was a loser. And I started to believe them.
However, these years of gloom came to an end when I was 11 years old. That year was the 2001-2002 NHL season. The Islanders, who of course were terrible every year I had ever followed them, were picked by the "experts" to be the worst team in the league, per usual. No one gave them a chance. But the Islanders proved their doubters wrong, and stormed out of the gate. They finished the season in fifth place in the conference.
Although they lost a seven-game series to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs, the Islanders taught me what still holds today to be the most important lesson I have ever learned in my entire life:
It does not matter what other people say about you. As long as you believe in yourself and know what you're capable of, no one can stop you from reaching your goals. Only the Islanders knew they could be a playoff team.
All the sportswriters, insiders, broadcasters—the so-called experts of the sport—could say whatever they wanted about the team. That adversity made the Islanders a stronger team, and they were determined to prove everyone wrong.
Since that season (which continues to give me chills every time I see highlights from those playoff games), I have faced my share of adversity. My classmates would still make fun of me, but I didn't care anymore. They didn't know my true potential, and they couldn't stop me from reaching it.
We all face challenges in life. Today, mine are not immature classmates, but are in the form of various other obstacles. There are times where there is so much work to be done, I can practically hear it screaming at me, you can't get this work done, you don't have what it takes.' And when I hear that voice, I remember the 2001-2002 New York Islanders."
So why did this fan feel compelled to speak out? He does not want to see this franchise leave Long Island. The Islanders have impacted the lives of thousands of people in the region and beyond, and if the team were to pick up and leave, there would be many broken hearts.
The NHL, as well as the rest of the hockey world, needs to understand that the New York Islanders are an integral part of our area. As such, they need to stay right where they are, in Nassau County.
Here's to hoping that the Islanders are in New York for years to come.
Comments are welcome.