It has been a rough season in New York Islanders Country.
The utter disappointment to 2013-14 has erased most good feelings Isles fans had coming into the season after the team’s first playoff berth in six years.
With little reason to cheer 60 games into the season, the Islanders appear on track to miss the playoffs for the 7th time in their last 8 campaigns; however, John Tavares, captain of Long Island’s hockey team, has continued to shine bright through the team’s failures of this season, and now has the chance to flare even brighter.
It’s an opportunity of a lifetime: Tavares will be representing his country at Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. His first game – Canada’s first game – is on Thursday. No. 91 on New York (No. 20 for Team Canada) will be taking the ice on arguably the grandest stage of them all.
He will have every opportunity to succeed.
At practice on Monday, the team’s first after arriving in Sochi, Tavares was put on a line with the Anaheim Ducks’ two superstars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Currently 2nd and 6th in NHL points this season respectively, Getzlaf and Perry have put up MVP-type numbers while leading the Ducks to first place in the NHL heading into the Olympic Break. Tavares, 3rd in the NHL with 66 points this season, should only make them better. Judging by his past performances during international play, Tavares could potentially steal the show.
JT, as Isles fans affectionately call him, represented Canada at three IIHF World Championships (2010, 2011, 2012), won gold at two World Junior Championships (2008, 2009) and played in a Spengler Cup.
Tavares scored at least a point-per-game in all three tournament formats, including 25 points (16g/9a) in 22 World Championship games and 20 points (12g/8a) in 13 World Junior games. Tavares was named most valuable player at the 2009 World Junior Championship, and tied Eric Lindros and Jeff Carter with an all-time Canadian record 12th goal in the tournament.
A strong performance at these Olympics, possibly the last Olympics that will allow the participation of NHL players, can only solidify Tavares’ legacy as one of the game’s greatest international players. He, along with the other players on Canada’s roster, could be in a group of the last NHL players competing for Olympic-gold in the foreseeable future.
Whether he takes home the gold is remains to be seen, but a star showing could also be just what the Islanders need to salvage some positivity in an otherwise tough year. The world would know that hockey team on Long Island has one of the only élite hockey players in the universe: recognition for the right reasons.
Tavares will be on Sochi wearing red and white. Underneath those colors remains blue and orange, and his performance at these Games will follow him back to the Nassau Coliseum.