For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they are currently facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the hockey and sports fans that don’t have an interest in the remaining four teams, the underdog from New York should be the rooting interest of choice.
The Islanders are what many sports fans and columnists refer to as a Cinderella story. They have defied the odds to get to the point at which they are at right now. After losing seven straight games at the end of the abruptly shortened regular season in March, the Islanders were on fire when the NHL returned in August. They defeated the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals almost seamlessly. Then, the Islanders took a 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers, and eventually won the series in game seven by a score of 4-0.
After winning their first game of the restart, the Islanders had 3000/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup on Aug. 3, by far the longest odds for any remaining teams. Now, they are 1200/1 to win it all, and still heavy underdogs in the conference finals against Tampa.
Cinderella stories are always fun to root for. Some of the most notable New York examples include the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII upset against the previously undefeated New England Patriots, the 1969 “Miracle Mets” that won the World Series and the Joe Namath-led Jets that upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
In American history, it’s hard to top the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” men’s hockey team. The ragtag group of college-aged players beat the powerhouse Soviet team, giving Americans hope during a rather dark time.
The underdog isn’t supposed to win, so if they do, it makes it that much sweeter, and if they lose it’s because they were supposed to.
Now let’s break down why the Islanders, in particular, are fun to cheer for. For starters, the way that the team is built. They have no superstar player. They have good young players who are strong role players, but they have no “name” that is universally familiar with casual hockey fans. They play a team-first type of game, which is all about defense and being a complete unit. It can be boring to watch, but winning isn’t boring. It’s exciting.
On a more serious note, the Islanders do represent all of New York. New York was one of the hardest-hit areas of the world with the coronavirus pandemic. New York City and Long Island were under extreme stress with the pandemic, and the Islanders’ run has given the fans of the tri-state area something to smile about in a period of sadness.
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the New York Yankees made a deep playoff run. Many fans supported the Yankees from around the country due to their geographical association. It didn’t matter that the Yankees were a dynasty, and had won four out of the five last World Series. What mattered was New York. The Islanders are this year’s New York team to root for.