My ears are still ringing and I have no voice. It’s a small price to pay for the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on.
When Game 5 went to double overtime, I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen a more fantastic ending to a game. Then last night happened. In Game 6 I learned to never, ever, doubt John Tavares. The Captain. The leader. The go-to guy in the clutch. He willed the Islanders to the second round. It was amazing.
When Tavares scored the game-winner, I was on the other end of the ice up against the glass. My stomach was in knots, hoping the Isles would find a way. When the puck went in the net, the roar of the crowd was deafening. I turned to the Islanders massage therapist Jim and we started hugging. I looked behind me and Rick DiPietro was hugging a security guard. Strangers hugged and high-fived in the stands. But really none of us were strangers. We were all a part of the Islanders family. Isles nation is alive and well. The feeling in that moment was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
As I stood on the ice waiting for our post game interview with Tavares, I watched the Isles celebrate. Then I witnessed one of my favorite traditions in playoff hockey: The handshake line. This series, the Panthers and the Isles battled so hard. Both teams lost players and both teams won huge games. But only one team is moving on to the next round. Watching them acknowledge the blood and sweat that went into battling for a chance to continue playing for the Cup was special.
At the end of the line, the goalies embraced. They were never fighting with each other, per say. Thomas Greiss and Roberto Luongo were on opposite ends of the ice making save after save look easy. The respect they showed for each other at center ice after the game was huge. I admire them for how they handled themselves throughout the series, calm and confident, never cocky.
My interview with John Tavares was a blur when I woke up this morning. All I can remember was his smile and the look of exhaustion and relief on his face.
John was the hero, but there were two other players who I’m thrilled we had on our post game show: Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.
The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Frans as he got situated on our set. Yes, it will be a birthday he will never forget. Frans and Kyle have been through a lot together growing up in the organization. To climb over the hurdle of winning the first playoff series in 23 years was a huge accomplishment. You could tell from talking with them, and watching their reactions, just how happy they were to win this series together.
Most of what I talked about in this blog you could watch at home, but what you didn’t see was all the hard work that went into putting the broadcast together. Not just this memorable Game 6, but all 84 telecasts on MSG+ this season.
I get emotional thinking about how lucky I am. You all know Butch Goring and Howie Rose are the best. What Howie has done these last few weeks going back-and-forth from covering the Mets to the Isles without missing a beat is remarkable. Butch is a wealth of hockey knowledge and always quick with a joke. Stan Fischler and Rick share great insight about the game on our broadcast nightly. They also have fun doing it and truly love the game.
The rest of my TV family includes very talented people that you don’t get to see during games. Our producer, Jim, is always prepared and helped guide the pre game, in-game and post game shows, effortlessly. He also has the answer to any sports trivia question from the last 40 years. Our director, Dave, is a calming presence with a special gift for visual storytelling. Charlie, our assistant director, is always patient with me going through highlights and video before games. He also makes sure the fans at home have the best look at every penalty and goal. Mike, our graphics coordinator, is in charge of all the stats and information. He also came up with the clever titles for our full screens (I.e., “The Greiss is Right”).
For home games, I’m lucky to have the best stage manager in the business. If you hear the crowd chanting, “Glenn! Glenn! Glenn!” there’s a reason. He keeps me focused and has helped create an amazing post game atmosphere. There are too many other people in our audio, video, and lighting departments to mention. But without Bob, Bobby, Paul, Mike, John, Ack, Gene, Boots, Basil, Rich and the rest of the MSG+ crew, our coverage would not be the same.
To all of my TV family, I’m beyond grateful for your hard work throughout the season.
Some of our crew will continue on for Round 2. We hope you enjoyed the coverage all season and will stay with us as the Isles continue their quest for the Cup.
Up next: Tampa!