Earlier today, Howie Rose announced that he won’t be returning to the Islanders next season. After 21 years of being the face and voice of the New York Islanders on Fox Sports New York and MSG-Plus, the 62-year old Rose is leaving the organization.
Citing his family and wanting to actually have an off-season, the legendary play-by-play man who became famous for his “Matteau! Matteau!” call in Game Seven of the Rangers’ double overtime classic in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final- has decided to cut back on a taxing schedule. He’ll focus on continuing to be the radio voice of the New York Mets on WWOR 710 AM Radio.
“It’s the textbook definition of mixed emotions. That’s exactly what it is. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more conflicted about a decision I have had to make in my life. But I’m confident I made really the only one I could make at this point in time in my career and life,” Rose revealed in a story that appeared in New York Newsday.
Following the memorable call of Stephane Matteau winning a classic ’94 Eastern Conference Final en route to a Stanley Cup with the Rangers, Rose cashed it in by signing on with the rival Islanders where he became their TV voice- replacing legendary Jiggs McDonald. Ironically, the 77-year old still did games filling in for Rose when he couldn’t make it. Something that became more common the past few seasons.
“Strictly, it’s the idea that I could have an offseason like most people who do what I do for a living. Maybe my wife would disagree on some level, but I think it’s only right that she has her husband around more than he’s been. Again, that might be open to her interpretation.
“But at the end of the day it’s something that I do with, as I say, the epitome of mixed emotions.”
For many years, the Islanders didn’t have any success after Rose took over in the booth. Following the run to the ’93 Conference Final, the franchise only appeared in one more postseason the rest of the decade, getting swept out in the first round by the Rangers. Due to poor ownership and mismanagement from Mike Milbury, they missed the playoff seven consecutive seasons.
After Milbury made some risky moves acquiring Alexei Yashin from Ottawa for a insane package that included Zdeno Chara and future first round pick and star Jason Spezza, the Islanders were on their way back thanks to also trading for former Sabres’ captain Michael Peca. Those deals along with the crazy trade of former first round pick Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish, helped the Isles make the postseason in ’01-02. Mad Mike as he became known moved franchise goalie Luongo and drafted Rick DiPietro first overall in the 2000 NHL Draft.
Their first series was a classic against the Maple Leafs. The home team won every game including the Leafs, who prevailed in Game Seven of the first round. Unfortunately, Peca sustained a serious injury on a dirty hit by Darcy Tucker in Game Five. It resulted in a torn left ACL and MCL ending his season. Astonishingly, no penalty was called. Following the injury, Peca was never the same player. He stuck around for two more seasons helping the Isles to two more first round appearances. Ultimately, the club wasn’t good enough falling short against top seeds Ottawa and Tampa in five-game series. The Lightning won the Cup in 2004.
Interestingly, Peca was traded to the Oilers for Mike York and helped the underdog Oilers reach the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. After missing the postseason, the Islanders made it the following year. But it was again disappointment for Rose as the team was eliminated in five games by the Sabres.
Sadly, that was DiPietro’s final postseason appearance. The All-Star goalie never got to have great success due to recurring knee problems that led to multiple surgeries. His bad injury luck included a concussion and groin issue. Ironically, he’s become a entertaining listen on ESPN Radio with Alan Hahn. DiPietro also is a frequent guest analyst on Isles’ telecasts between intermission on MSG-Plus. He traded barbs with legendary radio talkie Mike Francesa, who critiqued the Islanders for not appearing on his radio show or marketing themselves.
As for Rose, he had to wait six more years to call another Isles’ playoff game. In ’11-12, they lost a fiercely fought six-game first round series against the Penguins. John Tavares was brilliant. Ultimately, Brooks Orpik was the unlikely hero scoring in overtime at Nassau Coliseum. Following a playoff miss, they returned in another closely fought first round against the Capitals. Unfortunately, that also had a cruel ending with Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov doing in the Islanders as they lost in seven.
It took all the way until this Spring for the franchise to finally advance past the first round. Luckily, Rose was able to call the Isles’ signature moment of the team’s rebuild under captain Tavares. With the club trailing the Panthers 1-0 at Barclays Center in Game Six, it was Tavares who tied it with less than a minute left. Poetically, he would win it in overtime on a great wraparound beating of all people, Luongo to finally send the Islanders to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“That’s the one,” Rose said. “I don’t know how else to describe it but that it was my little Stanley Cup for the Islanders because we don’t do any more than the first round. I was really starting to become afraid that I would be known as the Horace Clarke of the Islanders and so when Tavares scored that goal it was a release, even a catharsis to an extent.”