Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Yes, yes, yes, Chris King had part of his call for the biggest Islanders goal in nearly a quarter-century “tucked away” in advance.
No, no, no, it will not be recycled, no matter how far they advance.
“There will be one ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ and that one I want to leave where it is and never use it again,” he said yesterday, a day after authoring a memorable soundtrack to a memorable moment: the double-overtime goal by John Tavares that beat the Panthers, 2-1, and sent the Islanders to the second round. “That’s the way I’ll leave it and be happy with it.”
Most fans should be happy with it, too, and it could not have been uttered by a better media representative of the team’s long struggle for playoff prosperity. The Islanders’ radio play-by-play man is in his 27th season covering the team and 22nd as part of its radio broadcasts.
So King is enjoying this ride as much as anyone, an “unbelievable” experience, never more so than yesterday, when his voice was all over the media map.
ESPN’s “SportsCenter” played his calls of all three Islanders overtime goals against Florida. That was only the start.
“Usually you expect some of your calls to be played on news radio and sports radio and that type of stuff, and NHL Network, and that’s fine,” King said. But he awoke to learn his reach had broadened.
“Somebody told me Elvis Duran on Z100 was playing my call over and over again. If I’ve crossed over to Top 40, then it’s something that, really, I’m not used to. My daughter is a big fan of Top 40. So she was thrilled that Daddy was hitting the big time on Z100.”
As Tavares bore down on goalie Roberto Luongo, King said: “Tavares right circle, walks in, shoots, Luongo the save, rebound, Tavares rolls it in! They score! And yes, yes, yes, the Islanders have their first playoff series win in 23 years!”
At least he thinks he said “rolls it in.” Replays were inconclusive. “I was just trying to understand what exactly I had said because it gets buried in the crowd,” he said.
The highlight was his tribute to the fans’ “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant. King credited Jiggs McDonald, the Islanders’ TV announcer during the glory days, for the inspiration.
King was watching a replay of a game on which McDonald filled in earlier this season. “He just kind of casually in a postgame show said, ‘Well, it was quite a win tonight for the New York Islanders, wasn’t it? Yes, yes, yes.’
“It just stuck in my head that they’ve done this every game for almost two years now and I have never once used it in a broadcast. So I kind of tucked it away and said, if there is ever a moment fitting for ‘yes, yes, yes,’ if they could end this long, 23-year drought, that would be it.”
King was pleased with the call, even though it included what he refers to as his “Peter Brady syndrome,” after a “Brady Bunch” episode in which Peter’s voice cracks as he reaches adolescence.
“It’s funny, and it’s completely out of my control, but I understand that when I get excited, my voice goes up several octaves,” he said. “There is nothing I can do about it.”
King was conscious of getting his words out quickly for the game-winner because even a slight hesitation on Tavares’ tying goal in the final minute of regulation meant being partially drowned out by the crowd.
“I kind of said to myself, hey, once it went to overtime, I have to kind of get it out quicker because you don’t want it to be lost in the wash of the craziness,” he said.
Adding to the coolness for the radio crew was that the call letters for Hofstra’s WRHU were shown on screen on national outlets such as ESPN as King’s call was replayed. Even though the Islanders’ playoff games are being heard on WFAN or WCBS, they still are produced by students and heard on WRHU.
“For their work to be aired on, in my mind, the biggest news station in the country and the biggest sports station in the country, I’m thrilled their work gets to shine as well,” King said.
Barclays Center was full of historical media connections. Ray Ferraro, who set up David Volek’s overtime winner the last time the Islanders clinched a series — in 1993 — was there as a TV announcer for NBCSN and was the first to interview Tavares.
Howie Rose was on play-by-play for MSG, 22 years after his radio call of a famous Rangers series-winner in double overtime, also from behind the net, by Stephane Matteau.
But this is the Islanders’ time. And Tavares’. And the fans’. And, yes, King’s.
King called it “bedlam in Brooklyn” when Thomas Hickey won Game 3 in overtime. Then came those three “yesses” after Game 6. Next time, there will be something new.
“To me, they’re singular moments,” King said. “I don’t want to use them again because it takes away from the original call.”
King listened to himself a few times, then watched how NHL Network had synched the video and audio, and then it was time to move on to round two.
“In the end,” he said, “I was really happy with it.”