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Islanders History

New York Islanders Throwback: The Time Mike Milbury Made Tommy Salo Cry

2 Apr 1997: Goaltender Tommy Salo of the New York Islanders looks on during a game against the Dallas Stars at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas. The Stars won the game, 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
2 Apr 1997: Goaltender Tommy Salo of the New York Islanders looks on during a game against the Dallas Stars at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas. The Stars won the game, 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
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Once during an arbitration period, New York Islanders General Manager Mike Milbury was so harsh he made Tommy Salo breakdown in tears.

In the dog days of August let’s throw it back to August 1997 when then New York Islanders General Manager, Mike Milbury, verbally attacked Tommy Salo in an arbitration meeting. It was 22 years ago yesterday when this infamous event happened.

First, arbitration is one of the worst things to go through in sports. It’s actually terrible for both sides. The team has to list all the reasons why the player isn’t worth the money they’re asking for while also hoping to get them to sign for them at the end of it.

The player, in turn, has to listen to all the critics and then in the end sign with this team. Talk about awkward.

Anyway, in 1997 goalie Tommy Salo was coming off a $300,000 contract. He had a .904 save percentage (21st in the league out of 43 goalies) and a 2.82 goals against average (23rd of 43). He was fairly average and he was looking to make $1.1 million.

Milbury offered him $750,000 which ended up being what the Arbitrator, Rolf Valtin decided to award Salo for his 1997-1998 season. How they got to that number was through “the most horrific character assassination ever seen in an arbitration for an NHL player.” according to an NHL source.

Mike Milbury is known for being rather harsh didn’t hold back. It was so bad that Tommy Salo broke down and cried in front of him.

Apparently, some of Milbury’s complaints were about his conditioning stating that he was one of the worst conditioned players on the team which is what led to goal in the final six minutes of 18 games (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the terrible team constructed around him).

We’re only getting started. He predicted Salo wouldn’t play as much as he did the year prior (he went on to play more), he called his mental approach suspect, he told him that Roberto Luongo or Eric Fichaud would start this year and there was a chance they’d send Salo to the IHL, and on top of that because of Salo’s “troubling performances” he decided to sign Wade Flaherty as insurance.

Awful stuff out of Mike Milbury, to no one’s surprise. Salo’s agent commented saying “we’re very disappointed, but we’re glad it’s over. We’re going to try to work together to repair the damage done.”

Next. Fans show impatience

The Isles are still working to repair the damage from the Mike Milbury era! An unreal trip down memory lane 21 years and a day from this horrific incident. I don’t miss this man in the slightest.

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