SignGuy, a man of Few Words - 8-30-08

7th Woman's picture

He‘s as recognizable in the Coliseum as Sparky, and he smells better. His photo has popped up in some of the most reputable sports publications out there. He is our own Cyberlebrity and one of my favorite posters on the NYIC board.

SignGuy has been there to cheer on the team, even in it‘s roughest times, and get the fans going as they first entered the building. So I had to ask a few questions. SignGuy, who is reluctant to grant interviews, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me via email.

Q. When did you start bringing signs into the Coliseum?

A. I started bringing signs to games in the early eighties. Back then it wasn’t as easy to make them, although cheaper to make than it is now. With the computer and printers that is. (In the 80’s) Lettering everything by hand with markers including drawing the Islanders logo was a task. So the signs back then did not appear as often as they do now.
Q. Do you ever have a problem getting them in? I had to ask this considering I‘ve had problems getting lots of things into the coliseum past security.

A. Occasionally I've been stopped by security. (Boy -- that pisses me off) I think they just want to be nosy. So, in the past, at playoff time when things got really tight at the gates, I had made arrangements with Chris Botta or Tim Beach to enter through the press area. That¹s a more civilized way to go in and I didn’t have security asking “What’s it say?”

Come on, they just want first crack at seeing it. That’s all.

Q. What's your favorite sign you’ve created?
A. That's a hard one. “JUST BELIEVE. 16,294 OF US DO!” was unveiled during the intense Toronto playoff series. It¹s a favorite of mine that has gotten the most notoriety over the years and is actually still appearing today. (August, US Hockey News).

Funny that you should bring that one up SignGuy. I remember that Alan Hahn used a photo of him with that sign for the dust jacket of his book “Fish Sticks” (which is still a good read if you haven’t yet done so.) So I asked Alan what he remembered of our NYIC Mascot, and what I got was an Islander fan’s true reaction being able to talk freely about hockey again. As Alan is now a “basketball guy,” I don’t get to enjoy his articles the way I used to, but I will occasionally read them. I still email him occassionally.
Alan Hahn:
"Hi Dee! I remember him a little. Didn't really meet him or know him personally. I know one piece of trivia from the jacket cover was that his number - 16,294 - was actually not the correct Coliseum capacity. I don't know if he guessed or got the wrong info (or thought maybe a handful of the actual capacity DIDN'T believe! Ha ha). But he was a creative guy and came up with a lot of signs.”

And I’m sure we all have our favorites from SignGuy's collection. But he has to have some that mean more to him than others. So, he continued.
A: There are a few more that I’ve had more fun with in the stands. There was one that appeared in The Hockey News during the 80s when the Isles and Rags met up in the playoffs. It showed our logo and our four Stanley Cups. The words read: “THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBORS GOODS.” Another sign tormenting the Rags was actually my first 3-D sign. The words read: “THE ONLY CUP THE RANGERS WILL EVER CARRY! “ Pasted underneath was a real protective cup from an athletic supporter. I actually had the “balls” (no pun intended) to hold it high when the Rangers bus left that night.

This might be my all-time favorite. It appeared the season after the brutal Toronto playoff series. It was the first time the teams met in early 2003. On the left was a photo of Shane Corson getting his ass kicked by Eric Cairns. On the right the words read: “SEASONS GREETINGS!” Even Corson gave me a thumbs up when he saw it.

Now, for ME, my personal favorite was the one that he brought to the home opener in 2005, the first game at the Coliseum after the “work stoppage.” NYIC message board had the best turn out for a Meet and Greet that very rainy night in October. Members came from over to be there, and SignGuy was in the center with my favorite sign that said it all, “We Kept the Light On.”

Q. What's your best story about one of your signs from an Islander employee?

A. I don’t have one. Not sure if they even notice the signs. I make them for the support of my team and for the fans that support our team. But there was one sign that made a road trip. A quote I used from Trent Hunter. I left the sign for him after a crucial game that the Isles won. The sign traveled with the team to Pittsburg for the next game and the first intermission was focused around the sign and a Hunter interview. It was cool to see that it made it to the Igloo.

As bad as things can get, my signs are never negative. I always try to take a positive spin. Oh yeah! I forgot about this one during the Buffalo Playoff Series. The photo showed a portion of the Stanley Cup. The words read: “KEEP THE PRESIDENT’S TROPHY. WE¹LL TAKE THIS ONE!” I’ll always remember the fun I had with the signs over the years and I’ll never forget the time I was walking up the stairs after warm ups and a man pointed me out to his little son; “That's SignGuy!” And I wasn't even carrying a sign! GO ISLES! SignGuy

Islanders’ fans are a unique breed, but then again so are most hockey fans. It’s an unconditional love and devotion to the sport and a team. So when I started to communicate with ex-beat writer Alan Hahn, he couldn’t help but continue talking Islanders hockey, since he doesn’t get that chance too often.

Alan: “What I loved about the Coliseum - it was real. Those people in that building are creative and passionate. The chants that come up are hysterical. How they made Steve Webb a legend or the cat calls and anger that spewed toward Fleury, Barnaby and Avery...hilarious. That building is one of the last "real" sports arenas left. An old school barn that, when the team is good or the stakes are high, is one of the loudest and intimidating places in sport. Even the rat poo as you're heading down the back stair of the press box adds to the charm. Dee I still think about that 2001-02 season and I still wonder “what if” about several things, such as the Tucker hit on Peca and the Kenny Jonsson injury. And I also wonder what if management decided to side with the "Good Ol Boys" instead of backing Yashin.”

“I blame myself for not hammering away more at Yashin. I am frustrated that only as I got to know Snow, Aucoin, Parrish, Peca et al (the real core guys of that room) did I realize what was going on there. Laviolette should still be the coach here. Those guys should have stayed together and had a decent run. I'm not saying they would have won a Cup but they would have been a very competitive team. And that building would have rocked more like it did in 2002. Something was lost after that season and it's hard to figure out what without starting with No. 79.”

No matter if he’s a “basketball guy” or not, Alan Hahn, author of TWO excellent books on the NY Islanders (FishSticks & Birth of a Dynasty) is STILL an Islanders fan. (And five bucks says he always will be.)

Thanks to SignGuy for granting me the opportunity of getting some answers out of him, and thanks to Alan Hahn, for always being receptive to my questions. He probably doesn’t even realize that he was instrumental in setting me on this path of notorious Blogerism.

Um, Alan… My husband would like a word with you.