This past week, the Islanders had a successful homestand despite playing without two of their top defensemen (Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic). On Tuesday, they beat the Blue Jackets handily and completed an electric third-period comeback against the Rangers Thursday. Then on Sunday vs. the Canucks, Ryan Strome scored with 50.8 seconds remaining to force overtime after Ryan Miller stopped the Isles’ first 45 shots. Five points out of six for a week of hockey is not too shabby.
However, there are times throughout the season when things aren’t going as well. It happens to every team. Which brings me to a question that I get asked and tweeted often, sometimes in a not so nice way.
“Why do you interview the opposing team’s players?”
For starters, on most pre-game shows we like to include some form of scouting report or breakdown of that night’s opponent. I think it helps fans get ready for the game and introduces them to players they might not know a lot about. It’s part of setting the stage for the game you’re about to watch.
After morning skates, the visiting media will talk with Islanders players as well. Almost everyone goes straight to John Tavares for obvious reasons. In addition to being the captain, he’s also one of the best players in the NHL and even fans in Arizona, who only see him play the Coyotes two times a year, are interested in hearing from JT.
We also interview players on opposing teams who have ties to New York or the Islanders. Evgeni Nabokov was not just Stan Fischler‘s favorite player to interview. He’s someone Isles fans enjoy hearing from. So when we were out in San Jose earlier this season, our production team made a conscious effort to try to get an interview with Nabokov for the pre-game show. It was entertaining and informative as Nabokov had a fun time reminiscing about his days with the Isles.
While pre-game interviews are planned, in-game interviews are a different story. When I’m watching an Isles game, I’m looking to interview a player who has made an impact on the game that period. If Casey Cizikas was killing it on the PK, I might request him as our intermission guest. But, if Kyle Okposo scores with 30 seconds left in the period, we are switching to him. We very rarely interview an opposing player during intermissions. If we do, it’s because the Isles are trailing by a significant amount and might need the extra space and time to refocus.
Which brings me to Sidney Crosby. I get it. Isles fans don’t like the Penguins and they definitely don’t like Crosby. There is playoff history between the teams and it’s pretty clear the players aren’t buddy-buddy either. But Crosby is still one of the best-known players in the league and quite frankly, a great interview. So, if the Isles are down two goals and the PR team politely asks us not do to an interview, you can bet I’m asking for Crosby. In those types of interviews, the opposing team’s player can give fans insight on what they see the Isles doing on the ice. They can explain why their team is having success, what’s working and what’s not.
In my mind, if you’re an Isles fan, you’re a hockey fan, and that means you can’t ignore the other stories going on around the league. So, if it gets to a point in the next few months that the blue-and-orange are struggling and down a few goals, I hope you’ll have a better understanding as to why I’m talking to Sean Couturier and not Cal Clutterbuck.