TALES OF THE JERSEY
New Islanders road jersey brings back strong memories
Monday, 06.28.2010 / 9:27 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
It’s one of the biggest games of the season in 1997, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is dark, but the stadium is packed. It’s loud from all the chatter, but suddenly, a spotlight shines on the ice to reveal a lone Islander skating out onto the ice.
Shock silences the audience. Fans wonder, ‘What is going on?
Everyone was about to witness one of Islanders’ fans favorite memories alongside their four Stanley Cup wins of the early 1980s.
Rookie right-winger Steve Webb stood at center ice wearing the infamous fisherman jersey of 1995-97. The teal, blue and orange jersey has a grimacing fisherman logo with giant letters reading Islanders across the chest, and waving stripes around the bottom.
“There was actually a lot of energy in the building, going out onto the ice,” said Webb. “Actually, I was a little nervous not really knowing what I was supposed to do. Skate to center ice, rip it off and then what? I didn’t really have a script or anything so I didn’t really know what to expect.”
Webb reached up to his chest and ripped fisherman jersey off of his back, revealing a similar jersey with the original Island logo and NY hockey stick, instead of a fisherman.
“I skated out there all alone and ripped it off and the people loved it. It was exciting. The fans were very excited. The place erupted. And again, the fans were very enthusiastic to get back to the original jersey.”
Not only were they enthusiastic, but it also brought an end to the “No more fish sticks” chant.
“When the fans started really chanting ‘no more fish sticks’, it was the loudest cheer in the building and that’s what they were cheering for, not the production on the ice, but getting rid of the jersey logo,” Webb said. “You could tell it was affecting the way they [the fans] thought and the way they viewed the team.
Chris King, Islanders’ radio color-analyst since 1994, had a lot to say about the nearly four decades of changing jerseys. He, like most Islanders fans, had an opinion on the fisherman jersey.
“To a lot of the fans, it looked like the Gorton’s fisherman. That’s what they brought up,” said King. “It looked like Stan Fischler, some fans thought. It looked like everything but hockey related.
“I mean yes it certainly tied into Long Island and the history that fishermen have on Long Island and it’s a great history, but as far as the hockey team was concerned, many people didn’t see the tie in – myself included.”
“For an older person,” King began, “there’s a lot of tradition involved with that original jersey and to go back to it for me, and an older group of fans, is just a terrific thing because it brings back all those great memories and all those things that occurred when the team was in their glory years.”
The glory years King was referring to are the early eighties when the Islanders’ brought home four Stanley Cup victories, each taking place while wearing the traditional royal blue, white and orange. Unlike King, Webb was just beginning his own legacy. It was his rookie season in the NHL; so accordingly, his appreciation for the fisherman jersey is a little different.
“I was a rookie at the time, coming into the league when the Fisherman was around,” began Webb. “So I wasn’t really comparing logos at that time. I was more worried about production and producing on the ice and staying in the NHL.
“It was my first jersey. I was pretty proud. I know that the fans hated it, but I didn’t. I still have it in frame with all my old cards and things.”
But now that he’s older, and a bit wiser, Webb has a different perspective.
“Now looking back on it, yes I wish we would have stuck to the original colors, original logos, they’re amazing uniforms that they had when they were winning the [Stanley] Cups and they were very original so I would have loved to have kept playing in those colors.”
Well, in 2008, the Islanders introduced their new alternate jersey, which was actually the original Islanders design with the royal blue, white and orange. The pure sight of the jersey practically took King’s breath away.
“When we first saw that royal blue, that original blue, come back for a few games a couple of years back, everybody that was a long time fan thought how great it looked,” said King.
“And now the fact that they went to that for the home jersey, well that was only one half of the equation to finish and that was get back to the original whites as well, which of course they wore on home ice for so many years and won three of the four [Stanley] Cups wearing that jersey.”
King, like many of his fellow fans, is finally getting his wish. The new white road jersey will be revealed at the 2010 Draft Party on June 25, 2010 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“So to go back to that original white now to be the road jersey, I think you’ve kind of completed the transition,” said King. “It’s taken almost 40 years from start to finish but you’ve finally gotten back to those original colors that so many loved in the early years.”