MONTREAL -- Standing in front of a massive New York Islanders logo inside Bell Centre, 2009 NHL Draft No. 1 pick John Tavares acknowledged that the next phase of his career involves more than just what happens on the ice.
He's now both an attraction and an ambassador for the franchise. "You want to be involved with the community and the fans and interact with them," he said.
Then again, there's another surefire way to reinvigorate the Islanders' fan base. "I think the main thing is you've got to win," he said. "That's the biggest thing to attract attention is to bring a winning product on the ice, and obviously that's the first step is getting a club that can compete for a playoff spot and make the playoffs."
Charles Wang shares that vision. The New York Islanders owner isn't about to sell Tavares as a savior -- even if his celebrity and success could mean everything from a return to on-ice glory to a new arena for the franchise.
We spoke with Wang about taking Tavares and how the fans and media will view him as a No. 1 pick playing for the Islanders.
Here's Charles Wang:
Q. What does it mean to your team to get a player like Tavares?
WANG: "The most important thing is that people must realize that he's another block in this building process. This is not a kid who is going to come in and be a superstar all of a sudden. It takes time. Even if he came up and played on the very first line, and played 20-some minutes, which is one third of the game ... this is not like basketball, or getting a starting pitcher in baseball. This is truly a team oriented sport. If you look at the talent we have, all of that coming together, we think we're in the right direction."
Q. Does that mean you won't be marketing him as a savior of the organization?
"No. I don't think anybody could. I don't think it's realistic to think of him as a savior. We have a great goalie who's coming back. We have great defense people."
Q. How do you think the New York media will treat him?
"I hope they treat him with patience. I hope that they have good expectations of him. And I think he will produce and he will show them what kind of player he is."
Q. Do you think they'll root for him at first?
"I don't know if they'll root for him. They'll record what he's doing. The New York media is a tough media. But if you do well, they reward you. If you do poorly, they get on your case. They're probably harsher than other areas.
Q. Finally, what was your feeling seeing all of those Islanders fans inside Nassau Coliseum at the draft party tonight?
"Ten thousand one hundred eighteen fans were there. Unbelievable. If those two guys didn't leave early, we would have had 10,120, but they walked out. (Laughing.) It's a testament and an endorsement of what we're trying to do. Don't forget: It was pouring rain out there. And still 10,000 people came."