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Banner Time! Islanders Fan Sending Aerial Support to Team in Toronto

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New York Islanders Fans

When the New York Islanders are looking into the Toronto sky they could be in for a big surprise.

One Islanders fan has raised over $3,000 to pay for a plane to fly over the Toronto bubble with a simple message for the team: “Let’s Go Islanders.” Matthew Kammerer, a longtime fan from East Meadow, NY, wanted to put a more personal touch on his support for the Islanders while they competed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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“It just came to me that I wish there was a way to show support to these guys outside of (social media),” Kammerer explained in a phone interview with NYI Hockey Now. “I said, I wonder if I can do something physical where instead of looking down at their phones on the way back from morning skate. Instead, they look up in the sky and they see something that really pumps them up.

“Then basically it just took off.”

New York Islanders FanThe die-hard Islanders fan turned to fellow fans looking for donations to help pull the idea off. He created a Go Fund Me page on Wednesday, more concerned about what would happen if he didn’t reach his goal of $3,587.

What happened next shocked Kammerer.

His idea quickly picked up steam on social media and 24 hours after he first started the Go Fund Me he had already reached his goal, and then some. At the time of publication, Kammer had raised $4,317.

Any money over the original goal will go towards extending the flight time of the banner.

“I’m overwhelmed by the response,” Kammerer said. “The Islander fan is a special breed. On the Go Fund Me page, I had had a William Shakespeare quote. … ‘Though he is but small, he is mighty.’ That always reminds me of the Islanders fan base. I like to say we have the highest passion per capita in the National Hockey League. It might not be one of the largest fan bases in the world, but it’s one of the fiercest.”

The effort by the fans hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players up in Toronto either.

The New York Islanders have seen the deluge of support on social media. Part of the NHL’s efforts to make the empty arenas in the hub cities feel more like home has been to put fan messages of support on the video boards inside the building.

The players also have plenty of downtime to see what the fans are doing on social media.

“That’s awesome,” Ryan Pulock said about the banner fans plan to fly over Toronto. “We’ve seen (the support) on social media and stuff. You see videos that people are posting whether it be in their living room cheering or whatnot. We have a pretty special fan base and they let you hear it when we’re doing well. It’s pretty special to have their support and it’s awesome to see everything online.”

Even Islanders coach Barry Trotz has taken notice of the support during the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s postseason. The Islanders bench boss thanked the fans unprompted on Monday during his Zoom call with reporters.

“I know our fans on Long Island have been fantastic sending us a lot of social media stuff,” Trotz said about the support. “We can really get behind that. Our players are looking at that, so just want to thank them for that.”

As for Kammerer, a fan of the New York Islanders since 1993 and a longtime usher at the Nassau Coliseum, he has already been in touch with a company up in Canada to get the puck rolling. Kammer will examine a long-range forecast to select the best day to have the plane fly over Toronto, though he is leaning towards a game day in the Second Round or in the First Round if their series with the Washington Capitals goes beyond four games.

Trotz’s Impact Goes Beyond X’s and O’s for Islanders | NYHN+

And Kammerer hopes to even get the Islanders involved and have a team social media person capture the banner as it flew overhead, or have it seen on the TV broadcast. “Who knows, maybe it ends up on NBC or something, that would be the ultimate,” he said.

Several teams have had signs of support put up in the hub cities. Most notable is the Montreal Canadiens billboard up in Toronto.

However, Kammerer’s idea isn’t about trolling anyone. It’s simply about supporting his favorite team on their quest for a fifth Stanley Cup.

“The core of this is positivity,” he said. “Supporting the team. Having an outlet for the support that we would normally give that we’re not able to give. It’s something physical that the players can see and maybe get a little juice out of.”

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New York Islanders

Islanders May Already Have Internal Pieces to Improve

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New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning

In this new flat-cap era, however long it might be, the New York Islanders are in a holding pattern.

With around just $8.9 million in cap space, as it stands, the team doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room to make many additions to improve upon the roster.

The Islanders, being a win-now team, were right on the cusp with their first trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 27 years. With restricted free agents Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, it’s going to take plenty of maneuvering from Lou Lamoriello for New York to take that leap and reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

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That being said, it’s not likely that the Islanders would bring in another playmaker to improve upon the 2019-20 season. For them to meet or exceed expectations once the New Year rolls around, it’s going to take positive steps from a group of their homegrown players.

Especially if the Islanders don’t re-sign Derick Brassard or end up dealing Leo Komarov as part of cap shedding, that’s going to leave valuable ice time, largely on that third line.

Future Islanders? Three Bridgeport Sound Tigers to Keep an Eye on | NYHN+

This potentially leaves the door open for the likes of Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows.

Wahlstrom, who notched 22 points in 45 games in Bridgeport, showed some of that offensive promise in a nine-game stint with the Islanders, though he failed to register a point. The Athletic recently ranked the forward as the 105th best player under the age of 23.

He’s got all the capabilities to become a dynamic offensive force for the Islanders once he’s fully acclimated to Barry Trotz’s system, which was part of why he had an extended stay in the AHL last year. He’s currently playing in Sweden, though did suffer a tough injury that will likely keep him sidelined week to week, per Eyes on Isles

Though Wahlstrom still is working on the details and the defensive side of the game, his ability to create plays and score with the puck makes him a valuable option for the Islanders. Similar things could be said of Bellows, whose impressive shooting skills have helped him score 34 goals over the last two seasons in the AHL.

Bellows was disciplined earlier this year for violating the AHL/Professional Hockey Players’ Association performance-enhancing substances program. Having already served his penalty, Bellows could vie for a more prominent role with the team in 2021. During the regular season, the Islanders ranked 22nd in the NHL with 2.78 goals per game.

They were better in a shorter postseason sample with a 3.00 goals a game clip, but the Islanders are going to need continued scoring threats and depth for them to maintain any sort of momentum from their playoff run. That’s where Bellows and his well-regarded shot could come into play.

There’s also the polarizing and enigmatic forward Josh Ho-Sang. The Islanders extended a qualifying offer to him, but he’s elected to go to arbitration at the end of October. It remains to be seen what will come of that situation, especially if Ho-Sang ends up waived or still wants to be traded.

But the Islanders don’t have a ton of Minor League plug-and-play depth to get any more scoring, so Ho-Sang could end up being a helpful addition to the bottom six. While his traditional offensive numbers (24 points in 53 NHL games) are not eye-popping, he’s had solid possession metrics with the Islanders. He owns a 51.3 percent Corsi for and a 2.6 percent Corsi relative. In short, the Islanders have been a better team with him on the ice. There’s little doubting his NHL skill.

But clashes with the coaching staff and front office have largely dominated his tenure in New York, so it’ll be interesting to see what ends up coming of his arbitration hearing.

The New York Islanders are in a bit of a bind until they can find salary cap room. But the good news is they might already have the help they need.

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Can Dobson, Greene Really Fill Hole Left After Toews Trade?

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Noah Dobson

Going into this unique offseason, it was apparent the New York Islanders had difficult decisions to make with the flat cap.

That first real casualty came in the form of trading defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of second-round draft picks.

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As was posited on this site before the start of free agency, the Islanders didn’t have a ton of space to make a splashy move and Lou Lamoriello needed to keep his focus on the team’s own restricted free agents. By dealing Toews, it left the Islanders more room in the future with cap space. In the short run, it doesn’t affect the cap space the team has this offseason, but it could help them make moves to free up some space.

But the Islanders also had to consider what the contracts they would end up paying out to their other big restricted free agents — Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal. Coupled with uncertainty of what the salary cap situation for the entire league might look like over the next few years, the Toews trade makes sense under that context.

Devon Toews Traded to Colorado for Second Round Picks

“Any time you see one of your friends and teammates traded, it sucks,’’ Anders Lee said this earlier week. “It’s not fun. It’s part of our business, that side of it. Devon is a great guy and a great player, and you wish him nothing but the best in Colorado.”

On its face, the loss of Toews is a tough one for the Islanders for a number of reasons. He was a key piece on the power play and he excelled in his possession metrics.

According to Hockey Reference, Toews had a 6.1 Corsi relative percentage last season, which was the best among the team’s defensemen. It did take a dip to 1.1 percent in New York’s extended postseason run and he struggled in the Eastern Conference Final, but Toews was an integral puck-moving blue liner for the Islanders the last two seasons.

So where do the Islanders get those minutes and production from now that Toews is in another uniform?

Well, the easy answer is to say Noah Dobson comes in and becomes a full-time player after an impressive 34-game stint in 2019-20. In fact, Dobson’s 4.8 Corsi relative percentage was the best among Islanders defenseman after Toews, albeit in about half the games played.

But Dobson’s pedigree and ability to play well within the defensive zone have made him a valuable piece of the puzzle going forward. When the Islanders made the deal with Colorado, Lamoriello said the team would not have even considered the move had they not had Dobson already in the mix.

“We would not have made this move if the ice time that Devon received, we didn’t have the ability to put a player into that,” Lamoriello said. “And Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step.”

The issue here is Dobson is a right-handed defenseman, so it’s pretty safe to assume he won’t be sliding to the left side. So that leaves the Islanders with a hole on the left. Andy Greene will likely don orange and blue next season and would be the top candidate to play alongside Dobson from the outset. But in turning 38 this coming season, it will be interesting to see what Greene can provide not only in minutes but in quality play down the stretch.

The Islanders did re-up with left-handed shooting Sebastian Aho earlier this month, and though he only has 22 NHL games under his belt, he’s still just 24 years old and gives the Islanders a little more depth on the left side.

There are options to fill the hole on defense, but there are plenty of question marks if the Islanders can still replicate — or get close to — the numbers Toews had with the New York Islanders.

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Islanders TV Voice Brendan Burke Recalls Memories with Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick

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Brendan Burke along side Mike "Doc" Emrick at Barclays Center

New York Islanders TV broadcaster Brenden Burke had just walked out of the Barclays Center feeling pretty good.

It was the night of Oct. 16, 2016 and the Islanders had just defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime off a goal from Josh Bailey for their first win of the 2016-17 season. It had been Burke’s first big moment as the television voice of the New York Islanders and he was particularly happy with the call he had.

Burke packed up his things and walked back to his home at the time in Brooklyn. It was then that he got a surprise email that capped the memorable night for the young broadcaster.

“I pulled out my phone as I was walking back and I think the NHL had tweeted out the highlight,” Burke said during a phone interview with NYI Hockey Now. “I felt really good about what I had done in that first real test and then I’m still on my walk home and a couple of minutes later my phone buzzes. It’s an email from (Mike Emrick) that says ‘hey you sound great.’  To have that on top of already feeling good about it, and then to have the guy who you think is the best broadcaster in the world tell you so is a very special moment for me.”

The goal and the email from legendary broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick have gone hand in hand in the mind of Burke since it happened, and it was a memory that came to mind on Monday when Emrick announced he was retiring from broadcasting. Emrick has called NHL games for the last 47 years and has been the voice of the league for the last 15 calling games nationally for NBC.

Emrick is regarded as one of the greatest broadcasters in all of sports and has called 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 45 Stanley Cup Playoff game sevens, six Olympics, 14 NHL All-Star Games and 19 NHL Winter Classics and Stadium Series games.

“He’s the best,” Burke said. “He became as big as the sport. You’re talking about a guy who won seven or eight straight sports play-by-play Emmys up against the Joe Bucks and Ian Eagles and the big guys. The guys that do the other big sports and he beats them all every year. … I love not only what he’s done for broadcasting and for the profession, but for the sport of hockey and elevating it to another level.”

Emrick’s overlap with the Islanders has been limited on the national stage. Emrick also served as the TV voice of the New Jersey Devils for 21.

Emrick famously called the Easter Epic on ESPN and was behind the mic for John Tavares’ game-winning goal in Game 3 of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015. Emrick noted the atmosphere at the Nassau Coliseum that game during his retirement conference call on Monday.

Mike Emrick was also on hand to call an early regular-season game in November of 2016 between the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sitting next to Emrick for the night to shadow the Hall-of-Famer was Burke.

“Just to see him go through the mechanics of (broadcasting), to see the notes that he had, to see what he has scripted out and what is off the top of his head,” Burke said while describing that night. “Just to see the way he goes about the game and interacts with his analysts when they’re off the air. The communication with him and the producer. I think I was 20 games into my television tenure and I was still very raw in a lot of those areas, especially in the ins and outs of television, so to be able to observe him doing those things was a really cool experience for me.”

Burke added: “I figured if I was going to learn a way to do things and to conduct myself in a television booth watching Doc work in my booth, sort of speak, was the perfect way to do it.”

As great of a broadcaster that Emrick was, he has often been described as an even better person. Reaction from across the hockey and broadcasting world poured in on Twitter following Emrick’s announcement on Monday, along with plenty of stories about his kindness and generosity.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers radio voice Alan Fuehring recalled receiving an email from Emrick last August after briefly mentioning that he was getting married. Emrick reached out to Burke as well following the announcement that he would be the new play-by-play announcer for the Islanders.

“He’s extremely kind and he’s genuine,” Burke said. “He really is that guy and he’s the person you want to ask a million questions and he keeps asking you questions. He wants to know more about you. That’s not an act, that’s him.”

The two have continued to correspond and talk since which included recently as Emrick prepared to call a game between the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning during the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Always the consummate professional he was calling me to make sure that he was getting those names pronounced right and wanted to go over the Islanders names and double-check, and make sure he was ready to go,” Burke said.

It’s uncertain when hockey will be played again, but whoever NBC taps to replace Emrick will have big shoes to fill.

“We are all going to be sad that Doc won’t be around and I think the sport for certain is better off for having had him,” Burke said.

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