The New York Islanders were responsible for introducing a tawdry and unneeded element to the NHL 14 years ago. And, thankfully, they could be on the forefront of ushering the same one out. This is one time when we can only hope the NHL continues to be the copycat league it has always been.
According to SI.com, the Islanders will not be moving their Ice Girls squad to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall, replacing it with a co-ed crew that we can only presume will wear more clothing. The Islanders were a pioneer(?) in the employment of Ice Girls, becoming the first team to use them back in 2001 and spawning copycats around the league.
This is good news. It’s good news for the NHL, which has one fewer team marginalizing women and objectifying them. It’s good news for humanity, which sees a sports team take a step forward in gender equality. But most of all, it’s great news for the Islanders.
Perhaps the Islanders felt they needed this back in 2001 when they played in an antiquated rink and were coming off a stretch in which they’d missed the playoffs seven straight seasons. That was probably also the case over the next dozen years when they were at times a laughingstock around the league, missing the playoffs seven times and bowing out in the first round the other five. When you don’t have much else to sell and nobody is coming to your games, you’re more willing to go to greater lengths to make a splash.
But that’s not the case with the Islanders anymore, who move this season into the Barclays Center, a 15,795-seat arena that opens the Islanders up to a whole new demographic of fans and offers the ones they already have a much more comfortable in-game experience. From its improved transportation access to wider concourses to more comfortable seating, Islander fans might one day grow to not mind the longer commute and costlier tickets.
And on the ice, the Islanders are growing into a legitimate contender. For the first time since their glory years, the Islanders cracked the 100-point mark and had a Hart Trophy finalist in John Tavares. They improved 22 points from 2013-14 last season and the shrewd acquisitions of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy helped power the Islanders to fourth in offense in the NHL. The Islanders are exciting to watch now and even though they once again lost in the first round, this time in seven games to the Washington Capitals, the feeling is the Islanders are on the cusp of something very, very good.
Led by Memorial Cup champion Michael Dal Colle and some very good defensive prospects – not to mention the wildcard and mercurial Josh Ho-Sang – the future looks bright. In our annual THN Yearbook, we’re picking the Islanders to finish second in the Metropolitan Division this season, one spot ahead of the rival New York Rangers.
With all that going for them, who needs a group of scantily clad women cleaning ice shavings and snow around the net and boards during TV timeouts? We can only hope the Islanders have the courage to stick with their decision, unlike the Philadelphia Flyers last season, who shelved their Ice Girls crew, but resurrected it after the replacement crew was booed.
The Islanders are doing the right thing here. And if they play the way a lot of people think they’re capable of playing, perhaps nobody will notice. Real hockey fans certainly won’t.