Climbing on the Islanders bandwagon

The Islanders celebrate a first period goal against

The Islanders celebrate a first period goal against the Minnesota Wild. (Oct. 10, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Saturday's sold-out Islanders home opener at Nassau Coliseum was -- to, um, put it kindly -- less than stellar.

No matter, they came back Monday with a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

I'm climbing on the Islanders bandwagon this year.

Let's go, Islanders, let's go!!

This is a big deal. Because I haven't put heart and soul into a sports team since the old Senators abandoned Washington, D.C., when I was a kid.

Frank Howard? He was the most tremendous player I'd ever seen. I can still hear the crack! -- echo, crack! -- of his bat and a crowd roaring its approval at another home run at RFK Stadium.

But I've lived on Long Island almost three decades -- longer than in my hometown. So it's time -- actually long past -- to make a commitment.

I'd toyed with the idea of going with the Giants while watching a jaw-dropping Super Bowl XLII.

Jets? Giants? Mets? Yankees? Can't choose. The loyalties and rivalries of fans are so fierce, it's almost impossible for a newbie to pick one over the other. I've got friends in all camps and couldn't bear to disappoint any of them by going over to the dark side.

Ducks? Love them, and the fun and family-friendly Suffolk County stadium they play in. They've done a great job standing in, sentimentally, for the old Senators.

But major league is major league. And -- as Mets fans can attest -- there's something to be said for cultivating the patience and fortitude necessary to support an underdog.

For years, the Islanders have been lousy. There's no gentle way around that. But could this season see something better?

Could now be the time for Nassau and Suffolk counties to once again rally behind the Islanders?

As a new Islanders fan, I have absolutely no idea. But -- thank goodness -- I hang out most mornings at a local pool with someone who does.

Bob "Gator" Finn was one of the team's assistant trainers from 1975 to 1980. He was there when Bobby Nystrom's playoff overtime goal won the Stanley Cup in 1980.

Finn believes this season's Islanders will have a better record than the Rangers. "I think the Islanders are going to have good season."

Why? "They're a young team, they've gained some great players," Finn said. "Young players are exciting to watch."

He also pointed out that the team -- which last season had several injured players -- had one of the best records in the league for its last several games.

That's good enough for me. Which is why I'm reading the sports section, monitoring the team's website, studying up on the game's finer points -- and shopping for decent Islander gear.

Between 1980 and 1983, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

One year, the team brought Lord Stanley's cup to Newsday. I was one of many who regarded it with awe.

The trophy was tremendous, like Howard. And it's been gone from Long Island too long. Bring it back, boys, bring it back.

One day.

But for now, start with a win and keep winning. Let's go Islanders, let's go!!

Watch video of Bobby Nystrom's Stanley Cup-winning goal here.