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Boe's teams gave Long Islanders a sense of pride

Roy Boe already was out of the picture by the time the Islanders completed their rollicking ascent from overmatched expansion team to four-time champion in a mere decade. But as the original owner of Long Island's only enduring major-league team, and the man who showcased the only other local big-time sports operation - the basketball Nets of levitating superstar Julius Erving's megawatt ABA days - Boe's impact on Long Island awareness was significant.

It was Boe who hired the architect of the great Islanders teams, general manager Bill Torrey. The resulting Stanley Cup victories prompted then-Nassau County Executive Francis Purcell to proclaim that the Islanders "give us an identity we've been striving for a long time. People won't say, 'Where's Long Island?' "

Before Boe, the Nets played in the often chilly Commack Arena, averaging roughly 1,000 spectators per game. With his signing of Rick Barry and, later, former Marquette star Jim Chones and Erving, the Nets soon drew in excess of 10,000 for playoff games at the newly opened Nassau Coliseum - and won two ABA championships in three seasons.

The Nets packed off to New Jersey in 1977, but the Islanders' NHL reign, Newsday columnist Steve Jacobson wrote at the time, was "worth a good substantial yell for their contribution to our sense of well-being. They made a lot of us feel better about ourselves."

When the Islanders materialized, Long Island already was the 11th-largest metropolitan community in the nation. But the shadow of Gotham always had cast a certain insecurity, which Boe - granted a new team in the highest league - named with an eye both to Big Town's marquee value and local pride: " New York Islanders."


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