The New York Islanders have been the NHL radio broadcast nomads. In fact, last season the team blew out their radio booth entirely, opting instead for a simulcast of their TV coverage with MSG Network announcers Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe (Jaffe’s contract wasn’t renewed after last season.)
For the past two years, the Isles were heard on Long Island stations WMJC-FM (94.3) and WHLI (1100).
Now, the team may get their own radio voices again—on Hofstra University’s 88.7 FM (WHRU). It would actually be the strongest signal for the Islanders in five years.
The deal, first reported by Chris Botta, the Islanders’ former media relations VP, on his blog–islanderspointblank.com–would likely have veteran Islander voice Chris King as the play-by-play man. The broadcast, though, would be assisted by students.
While Botta sees merit in having students handle producing, writing, or even sideline and intermission reporting, there are areas of concern.
“The only part that I think could cause the Islanders some grief…the way I understand it is that students will also serve as color commentators.”
He says that doesn’t help the Islanders image.
“I think the Islanders and the school are better off with having two pros in there, surrounding the rest with students,” Botta says.
However, Marc Ernay, a former Hofstra alum and veteran WINS sportscaster, has a slightly different take.
“The kids coming out of ‘RHU are a million times better than what my generation cranked out … I worked as executive producer/mentor for men’s basketball a couple seasons back and the student broadcasters approached every game as professionally as possible,” Ernay says.
He credits Ed Ingles (professional-in-residence) for being a major influence at getting the most out of students in the communications program.
“[I] only wish I could’ve had the opportunities back then that the ‘RHU sports department has these days,” Ernay admits. “This would be the crown jewel.”
MSG Network, which owns the rights to the Islanders radio package, needs to sign off on the deal.
As for the rivals, the Rangers are heard on ESPN 1050/WEPN, while the Devils have sports powerhouse WFAN as their radio backers.
Botta sees one other possible stumbling block before inking the contract—Hofstra’s own sports schedule.
“There will probably be a lot of conflict with the games,” Botta says. “The Islanders game, I think, would have to be bumped.”
If it does get off the ground (or ice), Botta finds this an “eye opening thing” given the Islanders financial distress.
Opening night is Saturday.