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When you think about the history of the New York Islanders, the first thing that comes to mind is the Stanley Cup dynasty from 1980 to 1983.
There were other many memorable moments on the ice like the wins over the Rangers and Penguins in the 1975 playoffs, the run to the conference final in 1993, 15 straight regular season wins in 1982, the Shawn Bates penalty shot in 2002, 19 straight playoff series wins between 1980 and 1984 and back-to-back trips to the NHL’s final four in 2020 and 2021.
There have also been a good number of infamous moments like all the ownership shenanigans including John Spano’s fraudulent purchase of the team, arena issues, and the rebranding of the Islanders in 1995 when they unveiled the Fisherman jerseys.
Those jerseys lasted just a couple of seasons, but there has always been this nostalgic feel about them. The Islanders brought the logo back for warmup jerseys before a game during their “final” season at “old” Nassau Coliseum during the 2014-15 season.
And now the Fisherman logo is back on the Islanders’ new Reverse Retro jersey that they will wear six times this season starting with Saturday night’s game against Carolina at UBS Arena.
The story about the rebranding in 1995 was wonderfully captured in the 2018 book called “We Want Fish Sticks” written by journalist Nick Hirshon. I strongly urge Islanders fans to get the book and read all of the backstories about how the Islanders went about the process of changing the logo and the overall look.
But there is one aspect of the Fisherman logo story that was a mystery for many years.
Hirshon tells the story about how the Daily News received a leaked copy of the logo the season before it was to be unveiled. The Islanders were planning on unveiling the new logo and jerseys after the season and they were livid when the newspaper took that logo and superimposed it onto a photo of former Islanders captain Denis Potvin.
For many years, nobody knew how the Daily News got that photo (scroll down for the full article). A former Islanders executive once suggested that an employee may have leaked it so that there would be a massive outcry about it. I can tell you that’s not what happened.
Then Daily News reporter Colin Stephenson got the logo from me.
Back then, I didn’t have a blog and I wasn’t a writer. I was working in radio and covered the Islanders for a variety of outlets, but at the end of the day, I’ve been a huge fan of the team and my closet is proof of that with a massive number of jerseys (including the original fisherman jerseys home and away), sweatshirts, hats, and other apparel.
At the time of the logo change, a popular place on Long Island to get jerseys and other sporting goods was Gerry Cosby’s in Westbury.
I became friendly with a number of the people that worked there, as well as the location at Madison Square Garden. I was a frequent customer at the Long Island store and one day I was there just to look around. One of the workers, knowing full well what line of work I was in, said he had something to show me.
“Do you want to see the rumored new Islanders logo?” he asked me.
“Of course,” I said.
The guy went to a back room and came back with a binder. He flipped through it and came to a prototype page showing the Fisherman logo, the color schemes and what the jersey was going to look like.
I don’t know if he showed it to anyone else, but I was stunned that he let me take a look. I was even more stunned when I asked if I could make a copy of it. There were no smartphones with cameras back then so he went into the back and made me ten copies on the store’s photo copy machine.
I can’t remember if it was that night or the next night, but I brought the photocopies of the Fisherman logo and jersey with me to cover an Islanders game. Again, if this was today and I had a blog or was on Twitter with a forum to break a story, I would have kept this all to myself. But without a way to show the world what I had uncovered, I decided to show it to some of the writers in the press box. Most of them didn’t really show much interest in it except for one.
Stephenson seemed genuinely interested in it and asked me if he could use it to write a story. I gladly told him of course since I didn’t have the ability to break the story myself.
The story was printed April 20, 1995. Here’s the article:
Timing is everything and if that had happened today, I would have created a firestorm on social media about it. On the other hand, all these years later, that logo might have already been leaked by someone else before the guy in the sporting goods store had shown it to me.
I have a good laugh every time someone brings up the Fisherman logo and even when someone brings up that Daily News photo of Denis Potvin with the logo on it. I don’t know why some of the other writers didn’t have any interest in it. That Daily News story was pretty big back then and I can only imagine that some of those writers from the other newspapers were kicking themselves.
The rebranding of the Islanders still remains a controversial topic today and the fisherman logo represents a dark era in Islanders history.
I believe that if the logo had been introduced in 1995 as part of an alternate jersey, then it wouldn’t have received the negativity that has surrounded it for 27 years. There are younger generations of fans that think the logo is cool and that’s why it’s being brought back.
It’s a chance for the Islanders to create some better memories wearing the fisherman logo and it would not be a surprise if the new jersey becomes the best-selling Reverse Retro in the NHL this season.
And I appreciate the fact that the Islanders sent one to me earlier this week!