UBS Arena should add statues to honor Islanders history

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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From Stanley Cups to Conference Championships, Conference titles, retired numbers, and commemorative banners, there are plenty of accolades hanging from the rafters at UBS Arena to commemorate the accomplishments throughout the history of the New York Islanders. The same accolades were present at Nassau Coliseum before the Islanders moved to their new arena at Belmont, however, what wasn't present outside of the Ol' Barn was a commemorative honor outside the arena. Now that the Islanders are firmly planted on Long Island and in their new zip code, it seems like the right time to honor the past in the form of a statue outside the new state-of-the-art arena.

This isn't a new concept by any means. Plenty of NHL arenas have commemorative statues present outside of their arenas. Outside of TD Garden, the home of the Boston Bruins is graced with the presence of Bobby Orr mid-flight commemorating the famous flying goal he scored in 1970. The Chicago Blackhawks have a few statues outside the United Center in the form of Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, and even a 75th Anniversary Statue depicting different eras throughout the 'Hawks' history. "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, even has statues in two countries, one outside of Rodgers Arena, home of the Edmonton Oilers, and one outside of Arena, home of the Los Angeles Kings. Heck, even the Anaheim Ducks have a statue outside of Honda Center in the form of The Anaheim Duck AKA "Wild Wing" dedicated to the fans, players, and team management after "25 seasons of dedication."

The 50th anniversary of the Islanders is set to be celebrated all season long in the second year of UBS Arena's tenure. It's time the Islanders sculpted and planted an honorary statue of their own outside of their new home. The question is, who receives the honor first, and could it be more than one?

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Al Arbour

The late, great Al Arbour is an obvious prime candidate to be commemorated outside of the Islanders' new arena. The Sudbury, Ontario native was behind the Islanders bench from 1973-1986, and again from 1988-1994. In his first run as the Islanders coach, Arbour helped cement the Islanders' legacy that received the label as a "dynasty," winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983, and 19 straight playoff series through 1984.

Arbour ended his coaching career with 1,499 games coached and 739 wins behind the Islander bench. In 2007, then head coach Ted Nolan requested Arbour's presence behind the bench as a coach for one more game, giving him the opportunity to coach his 1,500th game at the age of 75. Arbour and the Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2, upping his win total to 740 games in the NHL. Arbour's banner with 739 wins was replaced with his 1,500 games coached banner you see in the rafters today. Arbour is the only head coach in NHL history to have coached 1,500 games with the same team.

Arbour underwent treatment for Parkinson's disease and dementia, eventually wound up in hospice, and passed away on August 28, 2015, at the age of 82.

If anyone should be first in line to be immortalized outside of UBS Arena, it's Arbour who was one of the pioneers of the Islanders' legacy. He's the greatest coach in franchise history, a feat that may never be surpassed in the future.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Bill Torrey

There's an argument to be made here that if Arbour is to be planted outside of the Isles new home, William Arthur Torrey should absolutely accompany him.

Torrey was hired by the Islanders as their general manager at the start of their franchise when the NHL executed its expansion in 1972. The Montreal, Quebec native received the nickname "The Architect" displaying patience with the new franchise and showing commitment to building a team through the NHL Draft rather than trading for veteran players to try and win sooner rather than later. Torrey drafted five Hall-of-Famers, Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, and Pat LaFontaine. He also had the vision to see something in Billy Smith, who he selected in the 1972 expansion draft, plucking the goaltender from the Kings. Torrey also made key trades such as acquiring Butch Goring, "the missing puzzle piece," in 1980 in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. And, remember that Arbour guy we mentioned earlier? Torrey hired the legendary Hall-of-Fame coach that helped solidify the Islanders dynasty.

Torrey was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995. He was later honored with a banner of his own that's labeled "The Architect" and shows an image of his infamous bowtie.

Serving as the general manager, team president, and even helping minority ownerJohn Pickett Jr. buy the franchise in 1979, Torrey propelled the Islanders to greatness just as much as Arbour in the early years of their franchise. If Arbour is to be immortalized outside of UBS Arena, Torrey deserves the same honor.

New York Islanders Introduce New Coach and GM
New York Islanders Introduce New Coach and GM / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

Charles B. Wang

This may be slightly controversial, but like it or not the Islanders do not exist today without the late Charles Wang. Born in Shanghai, China in 1944, the Chinese-American businessman became a minority owner of the Islanders in 2000. One year later, Wang became the majority owner from 2001 through 2016.

There were some questionable decisions in Wang's tenure as the Islanders' majority owner such as hiring Mike Milbury as the team's general manager, or even succeeding him with Garth Snow because he was "good at fantasy hockey," but even that decision didn't turn out too bad. Wang is most well known for his numerous attempts to build the Islanders a new arena in Nassau County and keep the Islanders home on Long Island.

Wang developed a master plan called "The Lighthouse Project" which was to transform the Nassau Coliseum into a modernized NHL arena as well as a five-star hotel; condominiums; an athletic complex featuring four ice rinks, a basketball facility, and a state-of-the-art health club that would have served as the Islanders' practice facility and would have been open to the public. Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray deemed the project too large and denied Wang's proposal to transform the Nassau Coliseum grounds and the project ultimately fell apart.

It was at this time Wang could have easily relocated the franchise after the chatter grew louder and louder about a possible relocation, especially with Kansas City hosting a vacant hockey arena. Instead, Wang did his best to keep the Islanders as close to home as possible. Wang struck a deal in 2012 that would move the franchise to Brooklyn to play at the Barclay's Center, the better alternative than moving the team out of state.

In 2014, Wang agreed to sell the team to current owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Wang's love for the Islanders and Long Island kept the franchise as close to home as possible. If it weren't for him, the Islanders could very well not exist today as he stated in the move to the Barclay's Center:

It was Brooklyn, or out of town
Charles Wang

Wang deserves immortality in his own right for his efforts in trying to take the Islanders organization to the next level, whether he succeeded or not, but mostly because he ensured the Islanders stayed where they belonged.

Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders
Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

The Dynasty

You can't talk about possible Islander statues and leave out the possibility of immortalizing the names in the rafters. Each of Potvin, Gillies, Trottier, Bossy, Bob Nystrom, and Smith are all deserving of the honor.

Gillies was named the second team captain in franchise history, succeeding former Islander captain Ed Westfall in the first five years of their existence. Gillies played 14 years in the NHL, 12 of those seasons with the Islanders. The two-time All-Star scored 304 goals and 663 points in 12 seasons with the Islanders. He was a vital part of the Islanders' run of four Stanley Cups and 19 consecutive playoff series wins scoring 32 goals and 66 points in 87 games.

Potvin was honored as the franchise's third captain in history, assuming the role from Gillies after two seasons as captain. Potvin remained captain through 1987 and was handed the Stanley Cup first in all four of the Islanders' championship wins.

Potvin spent his entire 15-year career with the Islanders, winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's best rookie in 1974, and moving on to become a seven-time All-Star. In 1,060 games, the left-shot defenseman scored 310 goals and 1,052 points. He also had 91 points in 98 games in the playoffs from 1980-1984.

Trottier was drafted in the second round of the 1974 NHL Draft. He made his rookie debut in the 1975-76 season and won the Calder Trophy after a 32-goal, 95-point season. The Val Marie, Saskatchewan won no shortage of accolades with the Islanders in addition to the Stanley Cups becoming a four-time All-Star, Hart, Art Ross, King Clancy, and Conn Smythe trophy winner over multiple seasons. In 15 seasons with the Islanders, Trottier scored 500 goals and 1353 points in 1,123 games.

Bossy is largely regarded as the greatest goal scorer of all time. Yet another Islander to claim the Calder Trophy, Bossy also claimed the Lady Byng three times and the Conn Smythe in 1982. The eight-time All-Star dominated the goal-scoring department in his 10-year career all with the Islanders, scoring 573 goals and 1126 points in 752 games. In nine out of his 10 seasons, Bossy scored more than 50 goals including five seasons where he score 60 or more. On January 24, 1981, Bossy accomplished scoring 50 goals in 50 games and ended the season with 68 total goals.

Nystrom will forever be remembered for scoring the overtime game-winning goal in 1980 clinching the Islanders' first-ever Stanley Cup.

Tonelli to Nystrom, he scores! Bob Nystrom scores the goal! The Islanders win the Stanley Cup!
Jim Robson

There's not much more you need in order to be deemed a legend than that. Nystrom played all 14 seasons of his career with the Islanders skating in 900 games.

Smith might not have even been the best goaltender on the team in the first few seasons of Islanders cup runs working in tandem with Glenn "Chico" Resch, however, he rose to the occasion in the playoffs. The net became Smith's in the postseason and won 69 games across 93 playoff games in five postseasons.

Smith captured the Vezina Trophy in 1981-82 taking over starting goaltender duties with Resch now in the Colorado Rockies net. Smith was also named an All-Star that season. The following season, Smith claimed the William M. Jennings Trophy and claimed the Conn Smythe.

The legendary six are already forever immortalized, but that doesn't mean some sort of statue can't be crafted in their honor. The Islanders have a long, decorated history, and any of the previously mentioned names would be an excellent candidate to greet fans outside of UBS Arena for eternity. In the Islanders' 50th year, a statue to commemorate the Islanders' legacy feels appropriate.