October 14, 2011
The Three Stars of the game tradition in the NHL has always been an awkward one. After a victory, it's a cathartic celebration of a player's contribution to that success. After a loss, it's like salt in the wound as the opposing goalie or game-winning-goal scorer is given the first star.
Even though the media (and, sometimes, a team's media relations staff) selects the Three Stars — outside of Montreal at least — it's really a parting gift for the fans; and over time, that description has become a literal one: Players skate out and toss pucks or sticks over the boards to the fans that haven't beaten the traffic yet.
But the real awkwardness in Three Stars is that it runs counter to that cemented hockey adage that goes "it's the logo on the front not the name on the back." Here's an individual player, taking a quick victory lap around the ice with a spotlight beaming down on him, his teammates back in the room preparing to hit the showers.
The New York Islanders, it seems, have decided to remedy this. At the behest of new captain Mark Streit(notes), the Islanders stayed on the ice after Thursday night's 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning to greet each player that was selected in Three Stars — looking like a youth hockey team during player intros.
In today's professional sports, fans celebrate any inkling from these well-compensated, insulated-from-the-public athletes that they're actually enjoying themselves out there. It's one of the reasons the '24/7'-like coverage of sports has become so prevalent — camaraderie, pranks, profanities … hey, look, the millionaires are just like we are!
Watching this as a hockey fan, you're drawn to the enthusiasm. It looks like something you want to be a part of. In the grand scheme of the New York Islanders' resurrection as a successful and popular hockey team, it's a minor detail. But the little things add up.