The chants have been heard.
The passion is acknowledged and understood and respected.
But in the view of co-owner Jon Ledecky, the Islanders are a group that is jelling, and they have him anticipating what can be accomplished.
“It’s been really wonderful to watch them come together and I’m really excited about the rest of the season,” Ledecky said Saturday afternoon before the opening and dedication of the Ed Westfall Arena at Peconic Ice Rinks in Calverton.
Ledecky and Westfall were part of a contingent representing the organization. They were joined by former Islanders players John Tonelli, Pat LaFontaine and Steve Webb to celebrate the official opening of the year-round rink and the fact that it was named after the franchise’s first captain.
There are plans for two more rinks — one indoor, one outdoor — to be built next to the NHL-size rink that is open to high school and college players.
“I can only say ‘wow,’ ” said Westfall, 83. “I still can’t believe it. I thank you all.”
After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ledecky and Westfall headed back to UBS Arena to catch the Flyers-Islanders game and the pregame ceremony honoring Cal Clutterbuck for playing 1,000 NHL games.
The Islanders entered Saturday night’s 1-0 shootout loss to the Flyers with three straight wins, but before that, fan sentiment toward general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Lane Lambert, both online and in the arena, was not positive. Demands for the two to be fired were chanted during home games at UBS Arena.
When asked about the chants, Ledecky was diplomatic.
“New York fans are incredibly passionate,” he said. “The Islanders are probably the most passionate fan base in New York. I love the fact that the fans have that passion. We wouldn’t want it any other way. We want folks who care about the team. They live, eat and breathe [the Islanders]. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen who had the tattoo of the Islanders [logo] on their body. So it’s a fan base that wants to win and it’s a passionate fan base. And I know the players get a lot of energy from that.”
Said Tonelli, “The fans are passionate. They want to win. They want to do the things that it takes to win. But I’ve always been a big fan of Lou and whoever Lou has put in charge on the bench. I trust Lou. Lou has been doing that for a long time. He turned the team around when he got here and he pointed it in the right direction. So I’m a big fan and it takes a lot of patience.
“You [have] to play it out. Things might not play out the way you want to in the end, but if you believe in it, you have to let it play out.”
Like Ledecky, LaFontaine thinks the Islanders are close to turning the corner.
“I watch the team closely,” he said. “I think like anything else, they’re finding that consistency. And they’ve got great goaltending, [play] great defensive hockey [and] they’re starting to put the puck in the net.
“You know, it’s finding that consistency. But they’ve got all the players and I’m excited for the next part of the season for those guys.”