Updated: Nov 17
In the above clip from the pre-game report before tonight's Islanders/Senators game, MSG analyst and Islanders alumnus Thomas Hickey pretty much gave my exact pitch as I presented it to the front office. Everything he said is everything I hoped people would take away from the card wall. I could have done without pointing out the upside down Jordan Eberle card, but whatever...
How it Happened
Soon after I joined the New York Islanders creative team in 2022, I pitched the card wall as an in-arena display that would have been perfect for the upcoming 50th anniversary season. For whatever reason, everyone passed on the idea. I don't if no one thought it would resonate, or maybe with so many different things going on, it just got lost in the shuffle, but at the end of the day, the card wall was dead. Not to me. I felt so strongly about the card wall that I put out my own money for the idea, sniping eBay bargains as they arose. Coupled with a master list Excel spreadsheet, I diligently collected 370 of the 586 players on the all-time roster throughout the 2022-23 season. When summer rolled around, I pitched the idea again, now with nearly 60% of every islander ever in a small box under my desk at my home office. I thought my original presentation was thorough, so there wasn't much to do other than cross my fingers. Still, I was certain that if the team balked, I'd be able to shop the idea to a local sports bar or something like that. This was a destination installation. People would pore over the cards, like a massive photo album with every page opened in front of them at once. "Remember Milan Jurcina?" "Bob Cook played for the Islanders?" The team was all-in after I explained that we could make a few templates (over 40) and source archived imagery for the players who didn't have an actual Islanders hockey card (214 players). The junior designer and I had to get creative, as some of the one-game wonders, journeymen minor leaguers, and old-timers who played before the age of easy-access photography barely had headshots. I had a plan for every hazard in our way. TANGENT: Big shout out to the junior for needing minimal art direction, understanding teh scope and what I was trying to accomplish, and diving in head first.
All 586 players to have ever played a regular season or playoff game are somewhere in these two frames, with doubles to accommodate the next 40+ players to suit up for an Islanders game. The installation was pushed back several times, and I had little faith it would be ready in time for the October home opener. In a classic down-to-the-wire moment, the wall did get installed on the morning of opening night. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there to oversee this last step in the process because I had Navy duty that weekend. It pains me to see a couple cards upside down, another backwards, and other asleep-at-the-wheel errors like that, but these are all fixable faux pas I've already annotated.
One of the templates is a direct homage to the 1986 World Series-winning Mets. Now I don't really care about baseball or the Mets, but they have a cordial relationship with the Isles – maybe it's the color scheme – and there was a time, long ago, when baseball cards were my thing. So a few of the players have cards based on the famous-to-me 1986 Topps baseball set.
I threw in an Easter egg/literal calling card for myself, too. I was bred a Devils fan, and some part of me will always be a Devils fan, so I had a special template for former Devil Travis Zajac. His card is based on the template I created for the second series of the ColleXion, the X-Men trading cards I curated for charity (Equal Justice Initiative) during the pandemic. It's the only card with the design, and really just there for me. TANGENT: The typeface on his name is Gin. I had also just used it for Hispanic Heritage Night assets, so it was top of mind and readily available.
You can find these frames at UBS Arena behind Section 110.