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‘We came a long way this year,’ the New York Islanders’ John Tavares says. ‘We really turned things around. There’s nothing better than this. It’s a lot of fun.’ (Kathy Kmonicek/The Associated Press)
‘We came a long way this year,’ the New York Islanders’ John Tavares says. ‘We really turned things around. There’s nothing better than this. It’s a lot of fun.’ (Kathy Kmonicek/The Associated Press)

Next Stop: Brooklyn

Tavares scouts the Islanders’ future Add to ...

A group of Coliseum employees has threatened a class-action lawsuit over asbestos exposure, one of several legal legacies that haunt the building and the franchise. Two former team owners, John Spano and Sanjay Kumar, were imprisoned for financial fraud.

Some fans have brought umbrellas to games due to leaks in the roof. The franchise’s prestige melted with self-inflicted mistakes by a carousel of owners and executives.

For instance: In 2006, the Islanders signed goalie Rick DiPietro for 15 years and $67.5-million. Chosen first overall in the 2000 entry draft, DiPietro suffered many injuries, including one when he started a fight with another goalie and got cold-cocked. He was waived this season to Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

He said he considered driving his car off a bridge that connects Long Island to the mainland. “It felt like someone ripped open my heart and stuck a knife in it and lit it on fire and flushed it down the toilet,” DiPietro told a television interviewer in Connecticut.

His successor, Evgeni Nabokov, took a Jarome Iginla slap shot to the face mask early in Game 1 and left the game after giving up four goals. Nabokov was to return Friday with new headgear.

His father played goalie in Kazakhstan and was known as The Russian Wall. Coincidentally, a Russian oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, owns the Nets in a location with a thriving Russian community. In that hockey features numerous Russian stars, might Prokhorov buy another team?

“Mikhail is on record saying he is not contemplating any ownership of the Islanders at this time,” a spokeswoman said through an e-mail message. “The situation has not changed.”

Whenever they move, whoever owns them, the Islanders must cope with a serious design flaw. Inexplicably, Barclays was built with only a basketball configuration. A hockey rink will eliminate some seats, and obstruct others. The ice, off-centre on the floor, will give the arena a lopsided look.

Barclays will seat about 15,000 for hockey, compared to 17,732 for basketball. Sight lines will be judged after the exhibition game. (For the record, the Coliseum has near-perfect sight lines.)

Tavares had a good view Monday of the Nets and is philosophical about spending his first four seasons in relative obscurity. Chosen first overall in the 2009 draft, Tavares was well known in Canada and felt the pressure of expectations.

But although admired among New York’s hockey savvy, he lacks the celebrity and scrutiny of local stars like Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks, Eli Manning of the Giants and Derek Jeter of the Yankees. In this lockout-shortened season, Tavares topped his team in goals with 28 and in points with 47.

And he has bonded with the franchise at several levels. He is the godfather of the daughter of linemate Matt Moulson. As a rookie, Tavares played with and lived with Doug Weight, now an assistant coach and associate general manager. During the lockout, he played in Bern, Switzerland, with Streit, a close friend.

When Tavares signed a $33-million, six-year contract extension in September of 2011, he said: “This is where I want to live, play and, ultimately, lead our team to a Stanley Cup.”

When asked if anonymity has been a blessing in disguise for his maturation, Tavares replied: “It’s yes and no. I do think coming here to Long Island was beneficial to me to just kind of grow on my own and not put so much pressure on myself.”

With Tavares and most Islanders in their first tournament, it remains to be seen if they are ready for playoff pressure or for the brighter lights of the bigger city down the road.

“It was going to happen eventually,” Tavares said of the playoffs. “We came a long way this year. We really turned things around. There’s nothing better than this. It’s a lot of fun.”

 

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