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In defense of Islanders’ viewing party of violence vs. Penguins

What if we told you there was an NHL game recently that had 12 goals scored between the two teams; a combined 346 penalty minutes with two line brawls; a combined 23 games in suspensions handed out; an NHL owner threatening to leave the League because of the game's chaos; and a player threatening to take down his bedroom poster of said owner because of his threat.

Would that be something you might be interested in seeing?

Of course, which is why MSG Plus will re-air the Feb. 11 battle royal between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders on Aug. 19 at 8 p.m.; and why the Islanders have decided to have a viewing party in Uniondale that night to review the carnage.

Or, more accurately, celebrate it.

That's how The Pensblog demonizes it, saying that the Islanders promoting this event is "beyond words," and casually instructing their readers to create a little digital mayhem among the RSVPs for the event. And while Joe Yerdon of NBC straddles the fence a bit, he also comes down on the Islanders for glorifying the game:

You can't help but feel this is a 1,000 different kinds of awkward given the circumstances. Tangradi suffered a concussion thanks to Gillies' elbow while Gillies' reputation in the league was destroyed after this incident and Brent Johnson(notes) served notice to the Islanders that he's not to be trifled with.

Now, please tell us the same fans who have a soft spot for goons aren't taking the Islanders to task for building a party around theirs ...

There's nothing wrong with MSG-Plus replaying the game. There's nothing wrong with the Islanders holding a viewing party weeks before training camp for their fans to watch it.

In fact, there's something admirable about this miserable franchise that's been defecated upon by opposing teams, rival fans, free agents, the New York media, the national media and most recently the voters of Nassau County, stepping up and owning this deplorable circus as part of their identity. It's like Lindsay Lohan inviting friends to an opium den to watch video of her parole violation hearings.

To understand why the Islanders would revisit this moment, you have to understand what this moment meant to some Islanders fans.

This was Islanders blogger Chris Botta's reaction the night of the melee:

This was ice hockey as it oughta be when your team has been beaten down, abandoned by a Russian goalie in semi-retirement, been called "Lowly" in the headline of every game story (win or lose) and opponents like Talbot are taking liberties with your skilled players.

… Tonight was glorious, an image boost for the locker room and a gift to the fans.

Go read the comments on that Botta blog. Ones that said:

"Best game in a decade!"

"This could be the game the franchise needed to head it in the right direction. The toy tiger, Bobby NY, Gerry Hart, Boom Boom Langevin, and Captain Clarke are all smiling tonight…The boys made me proud tonight."

"This game better be on the next DVD collection of great Islander games. Unreal!!!"

"THIS IS ISLANDER HOCKEY! This is what I grew up on and have been waiting for for a long time!"

It was defiant. It was nasty. It was a take-notice moment, like a bag of flaming dog poo on the NHL's doorstep. For an Islanders fan, the pushovers pushed back, perceptions and repercussions be damned.

Sure, you can call the organization classless or "1,000 different kinds of awkward" for identifying both what this meant to some fans and the car-crash appeal of revisiting the night the Nassau Coliseum became the Roman Coliseum. But it's not your party. It's theirs, and they can cheer the lions against the gladiators if they want to.

In defense of Islanders’ viewing party of violence vs. PenguinsIt's akin to telling a team which numbers they should retire, as if someone outside the family should have a say in it. Don't like their honoring the chaos? Don't go to the party. (Or watch on MSG Plus, which somehow escaped the ire of critics for being the outlet that gave reason for the party in the first place.)

Hell, we almost want to throw a party to celebrate the Islanders understanding their fans on such a primal level. [Expletive] bobbleheads and cupcakes — this is how you connect with your loyalists.

This isn't to condone the Islanders' actions against the Penguins that night, which encompassed the worst aspects of premeditated violence in hockey and made Trevor Gillies(notes) the mustached face of perpetual thuggery. (Getting another suspension on the night he returned from his previous one remains an impressive feat of meatheadedness.)

But many Islanders fans embraced the chaos as something important on a personal and on a franchise level when it occurred several months ago; to retroactively condemn it now would be the real hypocrisy.

Instead, they and the team are owning it. If they're willing to wear a black eye like a symbol of fortitude, it's theirs to wear.

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