The Islanders have continued to make tremendous strides as a franchise the past three years, and now they might finally be getting rewarded for it with the national spotlight.
The NHL released its 2021-22 regular season schedule yesterday along with all of its 32 teams. Strolling through the Isles’ slate of games, there was something that was different about their slate of home dates for their inaugural season at UBS Arena — they are scheduled to play eight Sunday games.
This caught my eye. The reason being for the last 16 years, it was that day of the week that the league and NBC, NBCSN would have its so-called “Game of the Week”. ESPN and TNT — the league’s new television homes — have already acknowledged Wednesday and Sunday games will be in front of a nationally televised audience. There’s also the fact the Islanders have always been more of the traditional Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday format. Some of the opponents for those games as well — Maple Leafs twice, Blackhawks, Golden Knights, Lightning — all boast star power and national appeal you’d want for said telecasts.
I’m not one to speculate, but this could mean the Isles and their new home will get plenty of attention. If that’s the case, it’s been a long time coming.
For years the thought of the Islanders being featured prominently was only shot down every time the league would announce its national TV schedule. You’d look at the games picked and they’d maybe have one game, two if they were lucky. It’s stayed that way even as Islanders have sustained success and been a perennial playoff contender over the last three seasons. But this past postseason they showed they can be a national draw.
Newsday’s Neil Best reported back in late June — during the team’s semifinal appearance — that the Isles’ lone game on NBC during their series against Tampa Bay averaged 2.27% of New York-area homes, which was a 49% increase over the their one conference final game on NBC the previous postseason. The four games that were seen on NBCSN or USA Network averaged 1.91% of area homes, also up from 1.78 when the teams met last year in the conference finals. Then factor in how the country got to witness how wonderful, passionate fanbase the Islanders have. The amount praise around the league they received for the show the fans put on for three rounds was seen as very special.
Now with a sparkling new building to show off and a winning team, the Isles should be seen in a more glamorous light. That should excite the fanbase and the organization. And sure, I might be the only one who cares about it, but it wasn’t too long ago, the franchise was looked at as a skidmark and a the butt of jokes around the league.
Things are different now and times have changed. The Islanders seem to be gaining traction from a national perspective and all things indicate it will be on display plenty next season.
Outside of the possible national exposure, the Isles’ schedule release revealed some juicy parts to it.
The ridiculous 13-game roadie to start the season is one thing, but once that’s concluded the first week four games at UBS Arena are going to be a real treat. They include the Flames (home opener), Maple Leafs (Tavares’ first visit to the new building), Rangers (first-ever matchup at the new building), and Penguins (a rematch of the first round from this past postseason).
There’s also the returns to Long Island of Nick Leddy and Thomas Greiss (Dec. 29), Jordan Eberle’s return (Jan. 29), and Robin Lehner (Dec. 19). Connor McDavid and the Oilers on New Year’s Day. First trip to Seattle on January 4th. And the first rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning in mid-November.
J.G. Pageau’s hand seems to finally be healed after he broke it during the second-round against the Bruins. The Isles forward was seen without a cast on social media as he and his wife Camille were announced they had bought a penthouse for their new home just outside of Ottawa.
Pageau had been wearing the cast after having undergone successful surgery days after the season ended.