Regardless of where they are playing the rest of their home games, the Islanders are Long Island’s team, maybe as much as they ever have been. It says so right on the front of every player’s jersey, in one of the most distinctive logos anywhere.
The Islanders are the only team in the four major sports with a crest that contains a map or any kind of geographical entity. A carefully detailed drawing of Long Island stands for something, and fans simply would not stand for management’s long-ago decision to replace it with a fisherman.
“It’s unique, certainly. Most teams have modern ferocious-looking animals on their crest, and here we are,” said forward Cal Clutterbuck, the Ontario native who lives on the Island year-round now. “But I like it. It’s classic. It has that Montreal Canadiens-logo feel. It’s really well done.”
Unlike some teams, which stitch the logo into the carpet in the locker room, the Islanders have theirs in a lighted mosaic on the ceiling. The logo will be painted onto the ice at Barclays Center for the second-round playoff games, a reminder of where home really is.
Defenseman Scott Mayfield said, “I love it. I think the logo is great. You see the four lines in it for the four Stanley Cups, you’ve got the little subtle things, you’ve got the Island going through it. I love orange and blue, too. My minor team growing up was orange and blue.”
Mat Barzal, the team’s center and most dynamic young star, said, “I don’t think too much about it, but I think it looks good. I like the colors. It’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s the same as it has been for 40 years, right?”
Not quite. The crest, like the franchise, has a winding and resilient saga.
It was unveiled at a portentous news conference on Feb. 15, 1972, the same event at which Bill Torrey was introduced as general manager and the name of the team was revealed. There had been speculation that they would be called the Long Island something-or-others, but founding owner Roy Boe thought (correctly) that there was more stature in choosing as he did.
At the time, Boe told Newsday’s Joe Donnelly, “The 'New York' is for Queens and Brooklyn fans, whom we also hope to draw.”
Brooklyn, of all places. In any event, if a franchise were to devise a trademark look today, it would do months of pricey market research. Back then, the logo was done in a rush by John Alogna, owner of a Garden City advertising agency. “They had a press conference scheduled on Monday, and they told me on Thursday,” Alogna said in a 1995 Newsday interview. “Things were done crazy back in those days.”
Islander fans thought the craziest thing of all was replacing the crest with a “mariner” logo in 1995. When the seafarer turned out to be a spitting image of the fisherman on Gorton's frozen food packages, the team and its followers were in for a ton of ridicule. Under pressure, management relented and brought back the original crest. Fans at Nassau Coliseum chanted, “No more fish sticks!” During the break in the playoff schedule, Mayfield has been reading Nicholas Hirshon’s new book about the episode, “We Want Fish Sticks.”
When the Islanders moved to Brooklyn, executives at Barclays Center reportedly wanted to dump the logo again but were overruled by then-owner Charles Wang. It remains an integral part of the team's fabric. It was there during the glory years. It was there during the lean seasons when sly writers looked at the logo’s disk, situated south of Great Gun Beach, and said it was geographically incorrect because the Islanders couldn’t put the puck in the ocean.
The crest is still on Islanders’ chests, and in people’s hearts, especially now.
“I’ve seen it more around town lately,” Clutterbuck said. “A lot less Rangers stuff, a lot more Islanders stuff.”