The New York Islanders are having a moment — playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup semifinals — and two Vancouver Islanders who have a four-decade relationship with the team are enjoying the ride.
Broadcaster Tim Ryan of Victoria called the first two of the Islanders’ four-consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1980 and 1981 for local New York television, and has a pair of Stanley Cup rings to show for it. That was before U.S. national and international sports broadcasting opportunities for CBS took him away to boxing and tennis matches, NFL and NBA games and Olympics around the world.
A continent away on the Pacific coast, a young fan was just starting to follow hockey and became enthralled by the Islanders’ success, the start of a passionate 40-year-plus love affair with the team. Del Manak, now Victoria police chief, has bled blue and orange through good years and lean.
He doesn’t have any Stanley Cup rings, but he does have a closet full of dozens of Islanders jerseys and other Isles memorabilia.
Manak has made pilgrimages to Long Island to watch games and has never missed an Islanders visit to Vancouver when they’ve played the Canucks.
As a journalist, Ryan at first refused the Stanley Cup rings from the Islanders club. After all, he said, he didn’t score a goal or block a shot.
“I said: ‘Don’t do that,’ but [then Islanders general manager] Bill Torrey wouldn’t listen and insisted,” said Ryan, who was born in Winnipeg.
Ryan doesn’t feel he has the right to wear the rings and has never put them on his fingers.
“I kept them in safety-deposit boxes for many years, but have brought them out now because folks like to see them, especially in Canada,” said Ryan, who retired to Victoria two years ago.
Among those admiring the rings is Manak, who appreciated them more deeply than most people.
The Victoria police chief brought along about 15 of his Islanders jerseys, many of them signed by players, when he was invited by Ryan to view the Stanley Cup rings.
“This is a truly special moment,” said Manak. “These Stanley Cup rings are a connection across the years to the team I truly love and am passionate about.
“After the championship years, the Islanders kind of went into the shadows, but I never stopped avidly following them and cheering for them no matter the season result. Now they, as underdogs, have come up again the past few seasons and we long-time supporters are enjoying the ride.”