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Offside Tavern Takes One Last Shift with Islanders Playoff Run

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New York Islanders fans watch Game 3 at Offside Tavern in New York City

NEW YORK — It’s a Friday night and the New York Islanders are trying to fend off a 3-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That means at the Offside Tavern in Manhattan that every TV is tuned to the game and nearly every customer seated outside the bar is wearing some sort of Islanders paraphernalia.

In the heart of New York Rangers country that might seem like an odd sight, but it’s the norm at the Islanders-themed bar, which has become a staple among Islanders fans. And it’s why the news was so heartbreaking to many when they announced on Sept. 3 that they would be closing their doors for good once the Islanders playoff run came to an end.

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“Yeah, it’s hard,” Offside Tavern manager Thomas Fischetti told NYI Hockey Now. “Last Game 7 channel 2 news came by and I was just pausing and stuff. I don’t want to cry on the news. … It’s hard. The only reason we’re open now is it’s a labor of love and keeping it going for that.

“It’s emotional because you know no matter what it’s the end of our era for now.”

Like many other restaurants and bars in New York and around the country, Offside Tavern took a hit financially when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown non-essential businesses earlier this year. The timing couldn’t have been worse as the 3-year-old bar started to hit its stride.

Fischetti described the bar as a “mom and pop shop.” He said it had been a group of friends that dropped what they were doing to join Offside Tavern owner Nick Costa to open up the bar in 2017.

“We didn’t just go without a fight,” Fischetti said. “We didn’t take it sitting down. We tried everything we can (to keep Offside Tavern open). The tables you see outside, the barrier, the rink, the partitions between those people, we built those by hand. Everything we’ve done has been hard work and labor.  I’m glad we did so we get to have this at least.”

For the fans that have called Offside Tavern home, the news was saddening. While the Islanders don’t have the biggest fan base, they do have one of the more passionate ones in the National Hockey League.

And Offside became one of the few places where the Islanders community felt at home.

“It really became a huge refuge for Islanders fans,” Will Stevens, 32, said as he watched Game 3 with a group of friends. “It wasn’t just the once every three months you’d run into somebody with an Islanders hat on the subway. You actually get to see and talk with people. And remember Tommy Salo and Brian Strait and just random stuff. … Have these very niche sports conversations that only other Islanders fans really understand.”

Jack Herter, a 29-year-old who became a fan of the Islanders by the threat of disownment by his grandmother, echoed a similar sentiment on Friday night.

“It’s been really special to have a place that’s really embraced Islanders culture, Islanders fans,” Herter said. “The energy, the vibe, the camaraderie. Having drinks named after Islanders players and jokes and food. It really, really embraced everybody. That was really special. It is really special. It’s sad to see it going away.”

He added: “It really fostered a lot of really, really strong relationships and friendships. It brought people who were part of the same community, but maybe didn’t know it, together. That’s really special, especially for Islanders fans.”

That has come to light even more so than before since the announcement earlier this month. The outdoor seating area was filled at Offside Tavern on Friday night for Game 3 as the Islanders defeated Tampa Bay 5-3.

On Saturday, the bar announced on social media that they had been booked up for the remainder of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Offside Tavern will ride out the highs and lows of the Islanders postseason run with them with an even deeper meaning behind it. The bar made the decision to remain open through the playoffs so that everyone could have one more happy memory at Offside and as a way to say goodbye to the customers who have turned the bar into a home.

“(The Islanders) run is now our run and that’s the best way for it to be,” Fischetti said. “It’s a way for us to see people we may not see again. It’s a way for us to just give people a home. The people out there, those are our family. … It’s more just celebrating the place than anything else.”

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[…] playoff run. Going to be sad to see them go. I gotta make sure I get there one more time. [NYI Hockey Now] Today is September 13. But yesterday, September 12, was the 14th anniversary of the signing of […]

New York Islanders

Islanders Players React After Eye Injury Ends Johnny Boychuk’s Career

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Johnny Boychuk

It wasn’t too loo long after Johnny Boychuk announced he was ending his 13-year NHL career that the reaction from current and former teammates started to pour in.

Johnny Boychuk spent the past six seasons as a member of the New York Islanders and the guys he took the ice with on a nightly basis praised the 36-year-old defenseman for the person and player he was. Part of the legacy Boychuk leaves behind from his time on Long Island was just how important a leader he was in the locker room.

All of that showed as players reacted to the news on social media.

“It’s been an honor to share the ice with you,” Anthony Beauvillier wrote on Instagram. “Proud to call you a friend. You’ll truly be missed. Much love JB”

Others took to Twitter to wish Boychuk well in his post-playing days and share their memories of playing alongside him.

Even former Islanders netminder Robin Lehner took a moment to honor his former teammate.

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New York Islanders

Arnold: Johnny Boychuk Helped Change Perception, Culture of New York Islanders

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New York Islanders Defenceman Johnny Boychuk (55) during warm-up before National Hockey League action between the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators

Johnny Boychuk paused several times during his Zoom call with the reporters less than an hour after news broke that his 13 year NHL career had come to an end. The emotions of the moment getting the better of him for a second or two.

The often goofy Boychuk tried to remain his usual self, but the sadness of the situation was clearly visible as Boychuk discussed the previous few months and how an eye injury he suffered in March had led to the end of his playing days.

Johnny Boychuk looked back fondly at the past six years that he spent with the Islanders, where he appeared in 404 games and recorded 35 goals and 95 assists. He recalled how he spent a majority of that time partnered with Nick Leddy, who was acquired within hours of Boychuk back on Oct. 4, 2014.

And the 36-year-old defenseman discussed how his greatest memory of being an Islander was the people he came across.

“Meeting the people on the Island,” Boychuk started to say before pausing to regain his composure. “From the arena attendants to the security guards to the media. The players, the coaches, the staff. I mean the management, the owners. Meeting all these great people. There have been so many good memories. … It’s tough to process everything at one time.”

What became abundantly clear in the hours after Boychuk announced the end of his career was the place he holds in Islanders fans’ hearts.

Yes, Johnny Boychuk won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and spent six years in Beantown, but some of his most significant contributions came during his time on Long Island. And the biggest was the faith he showed when re-signing with the Islanders in 2015.

The signing went well beyond just making the Islanders a better team, it helped start to chip away at the perception that Long Island wasn’t a place top-tier talent wanted to stay. What Boychuk, and subsequently Leddy, gave the Islanders was a sense of credibility back that they had been lacking for some time.

“I’d seen it before where guys would come to the Island and they would leave within a year or two,” Boychuk said on Wednesday. “When I got traded to the Island we had a good group of young players, but now they’re veteran players. They’ve got experience and I think a lot of guys see potential in the Islanders. It’s a good place to play, to be with your family and to have a bond together as a team. It will continue to just get better and better.

“I think the fans realized it. I didn’t realize it at the time when I first got traded, but after being there a year I realized what it was to be an Islander and you take pride in it.”

Boychuk made an indelible mark on the Islanders organization through leadership on and off the ice. He won over fans through his gritty style of play and give it all attitude. Boychuk left it all on the ice with every shift.

He nearly brought the roof down in 2015 during a desperation clear in the closing seconds of the second period of Game 3 of the Islanders First Round series against Washington. And there were plenty more moments like that throughout his time on Long Island.

Boychuk may have never won a Stanley Cup with the Islanders, but he helped change the culture and perception of an organization that needed it. While he may not be retiring on the terms he would have liked, Boychuk can take some solace in knowing the franchise is in a much better place now than it was when he arrived.

“I think everybody has seen the transformation of how the team did that to themselves,” Boychuk said. “With Lou (Lamoriello) and Barry (Trotz) coming in halfway through my time on the Island it’s just been getting better and better as well. It will continue to get better and better because we play together and we play for each other, and we always will.”

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New York Islanders

Johnny Boychuk’s Career Ends Due to Eye Injury

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Johnny Boychuk

The NHL career of Johnny Boychuk came to an end on Wednesday after 13 seasons.

The New York Islanders announced that Boychuk’s time in the NHL had come to an end due to an eye injury he suffered during the regular season. Boychuk was clipped by the skate of the Montreal Canadiens’ Artturi Lehkonen on March 3 just above his eyelid.

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The gruesome injury required 90 stitches to repair the cut, but it did not preclude Johnny Boychuk from playing briefly during the postseason this year. While Boychuk did appear in three games during the playoffs over the summer, he did begin to feel the injury start to become an issue again.

“I kind of felt it in the bubble a little bit, but when I got out I started to work out and I really realized there was something wrong,” Boychuk said during a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. “I went and got it checked out and after I got it checked out I let Lou know what was going on. It’s been two months of doctors and MRIs and X-Rays. It’s been a while.”

After months of tests and exams, the results Boychuk got back were eye-opening, he said during the call. Doctors told the veteran defenseman that his prereferral vision was “pretty bad” and that there was some optic nerve damage.

Doctors even went as far as to tell Boychuk that some of the damage to his eye was irreversible. The news was serious enough that it took any decision Boychuk was going to have right out of his hands.

“When somebody tells you you’re not going to play again or you shouldn’t or else you’re going to get seriously hurt it’s been really tough,” he said. “I don’t even think it was a decision. When you play with it and realize there’s something wrong and then you go and get tests. It wasn’t really a decision, it was a life choice.

“If I was to go play again and not being able to see somebody coming and getting hit, I could be a lot worse than what I was.”

While Boychuk’s career is coming to an end, the 36-year-old wasn’t quite sure if he was officially retiring or if he was being placed on LTIR. Boychuk had two years remaining on his contract and the Islanders would be able to use his $6 million cap hit if they put him on LTIR.

The Islanders have a mere $3.9 million in cap space with restricted free agent Mathew Barzal still unsigned.

“The injury is causing me to stop playing, so I don’t know if it’s retiring or LTIR,” Boychuk said. “I just know that it’s going to cause me to not play because it’s basically not safe for me if I can’t see things coming. For the future, I have no idea what to do because this has just been two months of going to doctors and I’m trying to think about what I can do after, but I’m not too sure yet.

“I want to be on the Island obviously. We built a house there, so there was no plans on leaving, but I just don’t know.”

Johnny Boychuk has spent the last six seasons with the Islanders, appearing in 404 games and recording 131 points (35 goals, 96 assists). He was acquired by the Islanders on Oct. 4, 2014, from the Boston Bruins in exchange for a pair of second-round picks.

Boychuk signed a seven-year contract extension later that season.

Prior to his trade to New York, Johnny Boychuk spent six years with Boston where he appeared in 317 games and won a Stanley Cup in 2011. In addition, Boychuk spent one season with the Colorado Avalanche.

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