LI's Greg Van Roten sees similarities between Jets and Islanders
Greg Van Roten – lifelong Islanders fan – would love to have seen his team vanquish the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals last month. Even so, the Jets guard believes there is something for his football team to embrace about the essence of a hockey team that came tantalizingly close to winning the Cup for the first time since the 1982-83 season.
"I think one of my favorite things about the Islanders is they play within the system," said Van Roten, the Rockville Centre native who attended Chaminade High in Mineola. "If you are not from this market, very few people know a lot of the names on that team. It shows that if you have a really good coach and you have a really good system and guys that work hard, you can go really far."
Van Roten likes to think the Jets under first-year coach Robert Saleh have something in common with Barry Trotz’s Islanders.
"You can take something from that [Islanders team] being a professional athlete," said Van Roten, who attended several playoff games with some of his teammates, including quarterback Zach Wilson and fellow guard Dan Feeney, who frequently crushed beer cans on the side of his head. "Hey, you don’t need superstars to be successful. You need guys to play well within that system, and then the superstars elevate you to the next level."
Van Roten said the road trips to the Nassau Coliseum were an important bonding experience for the Jets.
"It’s one of those intangible things," he said. "It’s something we didn’t have the opportunity to do last year (because of the COVID-19 pandemic), to build camaraderie and spend time off the field together. It’s a great way to get to know somebody and introduce them to New York traffic. These guys were driving from Jersey to come out to Long Island. They were not leaving at the best time. I told them you gotta leave early. The Belt Parkway is kind of a nightmare. They didn’t listen. It was fun to build friendships and rope them into something that I cared deeply about, being from Long Island, being an Islanders fan and letting them into my world a little bit."
Which Islanders player does Van Roten liken himself to?
"I would like to think I’m Matt Martin," Van Roten said of the Islanders’ rugged forward. "I love his game. I love the way he plays. He protects his teammates. He plays hard, he puts himself in good spots. He’s someone I loved when he first was with us, and then he went to Toronto, I put the jersey away a little bit, and he came back and I took it back out. I hope that I can be like Matt Martin in my game."