Mike Francesa doesn’t talk about the Islanders much, but with the team set to host Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Lightning on Tuesday night, he laid into the organization and former goaltender Rick DiPietro during his show.
“They don’t know how to market, their PR people are lost, they don’t know how to market, and the rink is run by a bunch of clowns,” Francesa said after asking his producer what the atmosphere at Barclays Center would be like for Game 3. “So other than that I think otherwise they’re OK. So really, the hockey team is no problem, the rest of the structure, that’s why they have tickets for sale. Because you got a hot property there, you got a great player there, and you can’t get the building sold out because they don’t know how to market the team, they don’t know how to promote the team, and the people running the building are lost.
“So you add that up, and you got a good hockey team with a great player [John Tavares] . . . one of the five best players in the NHL at worst, a good, exciting team coming off a big series win for the first time since 1993, and they can’t sell the building out in their first playoff game at home. Embarrassing. But, look what you’re working with.”
It’s actually the Islanders’ first playoff game at home this series — they went 2-1 at Barclays against the Florida Panthers in the opening round, including the Game 6 clincher.
Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark didn’t take Francesa’s comments lightly.
“In all due respect, Mike’s a Rangers fan,” Yormark said. “He gets great treatment at the Garden. That’s who he’s married to. As far as we’re concerned, he’s never even been to an Islanders game here, so he wouldn’t really know. If he wants to come out to an Islanders game we’d be more than happy to have him so he can experience Islanders hockey, the best of it. But he’s never experienced it, so he’s really not speaking with any knowledge.”
But it didn’t stop there. After returning from a commercial break, Francesa continued to ridicule the team for still having tickets — some of which he was giving away — available for Game 3.
“The Islanders have tickets for sale behind their bench tonight. What a disgrace in New York City for a playoff game. I mean, give me a break. Now we’re giving them away — these are for tonight . . . Way to create demand.
“And this has nothing to do with the players — the players are doing great. It’s the organization.”
Later in the show, Francesa responded to comments made by DiPietro during his show with Alan Hahn on 98.7 ESPN Radio last week where he referred to the WFAN host as “Fatso.”
“I gather [DiPietro] said some disparaging things about me after I attacked the Islanders,” Francesa said. “I didn’t say anything about him. Obviously I wouldn’t pay much attention to him. But now that he’s in my business and actually is, and I use this in quotes, competition, giggle [note: he actually said giggle], but here’s a guy shooting his mouth off at a show that beats him.
“Now this is not for Alan Hahn, who’s a good guy, does a good job with the Knicks. Somehow he got hooked up with this stooge, and maybe he can get away from him and still salvage his career on the radio, but I mean, listen, from what I understand, you played goalie better than you do the radio, which isn’t saying much, from what I understand, you know, and now the Islanders are winning now that you’re basically shooting your mouth off on the radio, so stick to a league you can compete in, and tackling me in the radio business, you know, you’re you, and I’m Gordie Howe, so you know, clam up. Please. And maybe you can go to the game tonight and cheer. Get a little pompom, go sit there. And listen, like I said, if I’m DiPietro I’d be rooting for a team that’s paying me $1.5 million, which isn’t bad money, through 2029, for doing absolutely nothing. The happiest day of their life was getting out from under that 15-year mess.”
DiPietro, an analyst for MSG, said before Game 3 that he had not yet heard the entirety of what Francesa said directly and so declined to comment on his remarks.
But earlier on the “Hahn & Humpty Show,” DiPietro stepped in to defend his former team from Francesa, who he never referred to by name but as “Sports Precious” and “Radio Precious,” after learning about the WFAN host’s comments.
“At least I played professional sports,” DiPietro said. “I did what I wanted to do, now I’m doing the radio thing. I’m not saying I’m at his level yet in the radio business, but don’t take shots at my team. That’s my team. Let them enjoy the success they’re having right now.”