Despite having tremendous problems over the last decade, the New York Islanders are still a storied NHL franchise with a plethora of magic moments that, for some, trump some of the greatest in the history of the sport. Home to NHL greats the likes of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith, the team has seen some of the sports best players don their sweater over the years, playing in some of the most important games of the franchise and sport.
Because of that, it was only a matter of time until the NHL released a collectors’ DVD box set, chronicling the team’s 10 greatest games. However, for many hardcore fans of the team, the set is anything but great, as the NHL has made some serious mistakes that tarnish what could have been a once in a lifetime offering. Nevertheless, it’s still an enjoyable compilation that Islanders fans will enjoy, just not as much as they could have.
On the earlier discs in the set, the biggest problem is the video quality. While it has a rustic and nostalgic feel to it, the fact that the NHL didn’t remaster any of these games is a shame. It’s already an amazing experience to see this team play in their heyday, when no other team in the world could touch them, but seeing it in high-definition would have been a dream come true. Even in the epic game seven against the Pittsburgh Penguins in ’93, the quality leaves something to be desired, as you’ll often find yourself frustrated that such amazing hockey wasn’t preserved better.
Another problem is that aside from the last game on the disc and the 1982 Stanley Cup Final on disc three, all the announcing is done by out-of-town broadcasters, robbing the series of the comfortable feel it should have had. Jiggs McDonald and Eddie Westfall’s announcing of the team was a magical tandem that partly earned McDonald a spot in the hockey hall of fame. Not having them in this box set more is inexcusable. Most of the time, the announcers lack the knowledge of the team needed to do a solid job, especially on the ESPN2 feed for the 2002 Maple Leaf series and the CBC feed for the 1993 series with the Penguins.
Simply put, when an announcer doesn’t make a huge note of Pierre Turgeon coming back to the Islanders against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions after getting his shoulder separated in one of the cruelest cheap shots in professional sports history, it’s hard to take them seriously.
Again, the broadcasting hurts the overall quality of the box set as well, but truth be told, having all of these games in one place is an accomplishment in itself. Seeing Steve Webb hit everything that moves against Toronto in 2002 and Kelly Hrudey making more saves than the man upstairs against Washington in 1987, combined with the glory days of the franchise is worth much more than the $50 price tag.
The box set is also a great reminder of how much the sport has changed over the years. Most of the hockey featured on this set is rough and tough, and will put a smile on many older hockey fans’ faces. It also serves as a history lesson for younger Islander fans, as they can see lesser-known but important players on several Islanders teams of the past like Greg Gilbert, Alan Kerr, Mikko Makela and Stefan Persson, making it a video encyclopedia of the team’s rich history.
So in spite of all the problems this set has, it eventually succeeds due to the material being presented and not the presentation of the material. If you can deal with that, then you’ll enjoy every minute of the classic hockey action featured on this box set.