Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set Feb. 23 as the date sporting venues in New York state that seat at least 10,000 can start hosting fans at 10% of capacity. Still, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello isn’t exactly sure when fans will be back at Nassau Coliseum.
The first possible date would be against the Bruins on Feb. 25. But Lamoriello said on Sunday that he doesn’t know if all health and safety protocols can be met by then.
"I don’t think you can assume anything. There’s a lot that has to be done," said Lamoriello, who became the third GM in NHL history to reach 1,300 wins when the Islanders beat the Bruins, 4-2, on Saturday night at the Coliseum. "You know what is going to be necessary for the fans to be able to come in and what they will have to go through. There are certainly a lot of questions unanswered.
"I don’t feel anyone should put a date on it."
Lamoriello has navigated many different scenarios — nothing like the COVID-19 pandemic, obviously — since entering the NHL with the Devils in 1987. He won three Stanley Cups with that organization before joining the Maple Leafs in 2015 and took over the Islanders in 2018.
Only Nashville’s David Poile (1,420 wins) and Glen Sather (1,319) are ahead of Lamoriello on the NHL’s all-time list.
"It means that I was very fortunate to have great coaches and great players to work with," said Lamoriello, 78. "When you have that, there’s no limit to what you can do.’’
Does he still have the same drive to win?
"If you don’t have the drive and the competitiveness, you shouldn’t be in this because it’s not fair to the people that are around you, or working with you, or the players," he said. "Whenever you lose that drive and that passion, it’s time to find a cigar and find the closest beach."
The Islanders (6-4-3), who will open a four-game road trip in Buffalo on Monday night, have been winning and playing better of late after an inconsistent start to the season marked at times by shaky defense.
The team is on a 3-0-3 streak and Lamoriello called Saturday’s win over the East Division-leading Bruins "our best game of the year."
"I thought we started off very well right at the beginning," he said of the Islanders’ 3-1-0 start. "For whatever reasons, we weren’t playing the style that we feel is necessary. But over the last week or so, we’ve played extremely well.
"It was extremely encouraging," Lamoriello said of Saturday’s win. "But we have to sustain it. We feel good where we’re at right now. I think our players feel good about themselves. But we’ve got a long way to go."
The Islanders have been getting solid contributions from younger players such as defenseman Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom and Michael Dal Colle, all first-round selections.
Meanwhile, another former Islanders first-round pick, Josh Ho-Sang, again was on the move on Sunday.
The gifted but mercurial right wing, selected 28th overall in 2014, was loaned to Linkoping HC of the Swedish Hockey League. Ho-Sang previously had a five-game stint (one assist) on loan to Orebro HK in the same league. He was cut because of fitness and training concerns.
Ho-Sang was not invited to Islanders training camp because Lamoriello said he was not high enough in the organizational "pecking order" to make the team.
"So we spoke to him and recommended that he could try Europe," Lamoriello said. "Get a fresh start and convince people that he can still play this game, including us. God gave him talent. He just has to actuate it.
"Unfortunately, he went [to Orebro] when he wasn’t in perfect playing shape. And it just didn’t work out."