It’s rare for the New York Islanders to end up on the back pages of the New York tabloids or be the focus of the hockey world, but that has been the case during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Islanders trail the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, but their postseason success has put the spotlight on the franchise. They’ve graced the back pages of the New York Post and Newsday and been a topic of conversation on nightly newscasts and sports talk radio.
It’s nowhere near the time the New York Giants or New York Yankees and Mets get, but for the Islanders the new attention is welcomed.
“It’s been really cool,” Nick Leddy said. “Obviously it’s very special to get this far in playoffs. It’s one of the hardest trophies to win if not the hardest. To be one of the final four and now three, it’s really special.”
The New York Islanders have success more recently — advancing to the Second Round of the playoffs last season and in 2016– but for a while that wasn’t the case. New York had a six-year playoff drought after a brief appearance in the postseason in 2007. Even as the Islanders playoff appearances became more consistent they’ve had to fight for attention.
But now as one of just one of three teams left in the playoffs and all the positive momentum with the team’s new arena at Belmont Park, the spotlight is squarely on them.
“Organizationally it’s really important to see what’s happening on the Island,” Trotz said. “The change with Lou (Lamoriello) coming in. The facilities. What the Island is all about. Obviously the excitement of the new Belmont (arena) our permanent home. The character that represents the Islanders. Just a lot of good things.”
And the benefits go well beyond some good headlines.
“There’s experiences of going deep for your organization that you can’t get any other way,” Trotz said. “For a number of our players that have never been to the conference final ever before. Maybe got past the First Round once or twice and that’s been about it. We’ve gone deeper and you see the grind that has to go in. Everybody thinks about the physical grind. I think the mental grind is a lot harder than the physical grind.”