TORONTO – John Tavares doesn’t mind the black jerseys.
“It’s better than our last black jersey,” he said. “Those were tough.”
New (third) jerseys, new arena and a new era for Tavares and the New York Islanders as they begin their first season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn; where, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a subspecies called “hipsters” native to the locale.
“Yeah, we'll see about the hipsters. I've been asked about it 30 times, and I still couldn’t tell you exactly the description of what a hipster is,” said Tavares.
You can understand John's confusion, as Rob Riggle decided to go with the "goombah" Brooklynite rather than the classic hipster during that hilarious video segment on the NHL Awards. So here, let us help: Hipsters are those people who buck the mainstream, who march to their own beat, who relish the experience of discovering something old that they can make new or unknown that they can assimilate into their own style.
In other words, the best thing the Islanders can do to market themselves to Brooklyn hipsters would be not to market the team at all, and have them all simultaneously believe they’re the first to discover the franchise.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he said, laughing.
While he’s not sure how many Brooklyn natives will leap onto a New York Islanders bandwagon that’s surging forward, having made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, he’s sure there will be robust fan support in their new building.
“There’s a tradition. It’s important to connect with fans in Brooklyn. But we want to do it the Islander way. Carry that over, and get some new fans, if we can,” Tavares said. “I think we’ll get some new fans in Brooklyn, but our fans will still make the trip.”
Hitting the capacity of 15,813 shouldn’t be hard, considering the team’s success and the accessibility of the building via mass transit. Tavares expects different acoustics, but no change in the passion of Islanders fans.
“The atmosphere was pretty insane at Nassau. I think the fans will be pretty similar. I just think the echo will be a little different,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of pride for Islanders fans. Most faithful people I’ve met.”
The Islanders went 47-28-7 last season under Jack Capuano, with Tavares leading the charge: 38 goals and 48 assists, leading the Isles by a wide margin in both categories. As is tradition when the Islanders play past 82 games, Tavares was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
“Both years I’ve been nominated were both times we made the playoffs, so I can’t thank my teammates enough for that support,” he said. “It’s the most important individual award in our sport, and you don’t take something like that lightly.”
The most important team trophy is what Tavares is eyeing, with an Islanders team that learned a thing or two about the Stanley Cup Playoffs before bowing out to the Washington Capitals in seven games last season.
“We were distraught. We really felt we had a special team, that could go far,” recalled Tavares. “A lot of us never played a Game 7, and it showed. It’s learning what it takes. The sacrifices.”
Tavares believes his Islanders are ready to make the necessary ones on the path to the Islanders raising the Cup again – this time in Brooklyn.
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