On the ninth hole of a charity outing at the Meadow Brook Club some years ago, Islanders general manager Bill Torrey could not see where his ball landed on the uphill par-3 green, but he could tell it was darn near perfect. Mindful that the prize for a hole-in-one was a new car and the prize for closest-to-the-pin was an alarm clock, he couldn't wait to get up there. Unfortunately for him, he didn't need a wake-up service after that.
Another time, during an outing for Ronald McDonald House, an Islanders fan was mortified that his errant tee shot almost clipped legends Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. Worse yet, the same guy nearly nailed them two holes later. To put the fellow at ease, Trottier picked up the ball, stuffed it into the ball washer and for a minute had the guy believing it had taken a crazy bounce into the sudsy water.
The real point is not what happened or what anybody shot. The point is that the Islanders were there, and they still are. At a time when we all are mulling the team's impact on Long Island, it could be said that, aside from the four Stanley Cups, the Islanders' greatest legacy is that they have helped raise millions of dollars. They have done it with their time, their reputations and, usually, their woods, irons and putters.
That very thought occurred to Jim Johnson, former Islanders executive (and witness to the ball washer episode), as he saw Ed Westfall, Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies and Pat LaFontaine standing together at LaFontaine's Companions in Courage Foundation Outing two weeks ago at Huntington Country Club.
"Collectively, these gentlemen have done more to boost charities on Long Island than almost any group that I know," he said, noting that they respectively come from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Michigan. "The thing they have in common is that they never would have made a home on Long Island except for the fact the team they played for is based here."
Golf has been their philanthropy's favorite vehicle. So it will be a good fit that Thursday night, at the second home game of their final season on Long Island, the team will host a Met PGA Golf Night, with free lessons for fans and a golf-themed Chuck A Puck promotion.
In the fusion of the two sports, the Islanders have shown a knack for making golf events eventful. Once, at LaFontaine's tournament (raising money for high-tech playrooms at children's hospitals), Trottier stopped talking to a buddy in mid-sentence, awestruck, and said, "Hey, there's Bobby Orr!"
Mario Lemieux is one of the headliners at Gillies' annual three-day celebrity tournament, which supports the pediatric unit at Huntington Hospital and other children's causes.
The only de facto Islanders old-timers gathering is the annual charity golf outing hosted by former equipment manager Joe McMahon in memory of his mother and his young son. Proceeds go to the American Liver Foundation, Hospice Care Network and Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. One year, it inspired former enforcer Mick Vukota to say, "I was always proud to be an Islander and I always will be proud."
The current Islanders mark the start of training camp with a huge fundraising golf outing for their children's foundation. Last year, it was the occasion to name John Tavares as captain.
Sometimes the golf is good, sometimes it's a little rough around the edges. But for the past 42 years, it has helped an awful lot of people, no matter if they even like hockey.
"I recently received one of those 'You know you're from Long Island if . . . ' emails and it said, 'You've had your car soiled by a seagull. You know how to change at Jamaica. You've met Bobby Nystrom at a charity event,' " Johnson said. "That just about says it all. And I believe that is the most important consequence of the Islanders being on Long Island."