Chris Botta, as reported in Newsday and on WFAN 660 AM, was recently dismissed as a blogger for the New York Islanders.
Botta, who currently works for AOL FanHouse and blogs for SNY on his site, Islanders Point Blank, was once the media relations vice president for the team and received the news earlier this week from current Director of Communications Kimber Auerbach.
The Islanders’ move came at a time when Miami Heat blogger and Esquire Magazine author Scott Raab was recently denied future access to games and practices after posting “inappropriate language via Twitter” toward a Heat player, according to a Sports Business Daily article.
“I’m sure I said some things that they didn’t love, but I don’t think I said anything that I’d regret,” said Botta on the WFAN 660 radio station.
Islanders fans, who are in the midst of a coaching change and an 11-game losing skid, relied upon Botta’s blog for line combinations and up-to-the-minute news from practice and the locker room.
“I don’t think I’ve been saying anything that’s wildly untrue,” added Botta, who called the current situation “a relationship that’s been fractured.”
Botta noted he’s received support from several colleagues, including some who may ask the league to reverse the Islanders’ decision, although “the team has the final say on that,” Botta said.
When asked who is to blame for the Islanders inefficiency, Botta said he observed several contributing factors, but did not pinpoint one in particular as having the greatest impact.
“I can’t blame anybody. There’s serious financial issues there. This is a team … that is losing $15 to $25 million a year. Too many holes in that building, too many issues there. It’s been 17 years since they’ve won a playoff round,” Botta added.
Botta noted that several unforeseeable incidents have left the Islanders in dire straits: injuries, contract buyouts and coaching changes, but he said one of the biggest mistakes was passing on current Devil and perennial standout Zach Parise, whose father, J.P., played for the Islanders from 1974 to 1978.
“The Islanders had the opportunity to get Zach Parise … a kid who has got eveyrthing you’d want in a person … he was sitting there staring at them right in the face. There’s a historical franchise connection and they passed on Zach and took a kid named Robert Nilsson, who’s not playing in the NHL right now,” Botta said.
Botta also gave his two cents on the groundbreaking deal for oft-injured but former All-Star goalie Rick DiPietro.
“$4.5 million — a backup cornerback makes — $4.5 million for a goalie long-term, if Ricky stays healthy, is OK. Other teams have followed up with those deals.
“I dont’ put Ricky’s contract on that list [of mistakes],” said Botta, who called the goalies cap hit “a very digestible number” if not for the slew of injuries.
Botta also commented on the Islanders’ release of current Flyers’ coach, Peter Laviolette, who has won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and reached the finals last year with his current Philadelphia team. Botta noted that Laviolette’s release came shortly after a handful of Islanders players demanded that he be let go.
“Coaches will tell you, in most sports, that the players who complain the most about the coach are the guys who are out of the business in two years,” said Botta.
And while many fans on the Island have shifted the blame toward Islanders’ owner Charles Wang, “I can’t sit here and say that this is Charles Wang’s fault,” said Botta.
“This guy’s heart is on Long Island. He does not, for a second, want to take it to Queens — he wants it to stay right where it belongs. The guy cares about the team, he’s in his box every night — his heart is in the right palce and he’s not going to change,” said Botta.
Although Botta supported the troubled franchise and it’s owner, who Botta described as “stubborn…for better or worse,” admitted there aren’t any potential suitors for the team, whose current lease ends in 2015.
“I dont think he has any options to sell it. Nobody is lining up to buy this team,” Botta added.
Botta explained that once former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi lost his bid for re-election, the Lighthouse Project took a significant hit, as Suozzi was an advocate of the plan.
“In 2015 the lease ends. [Wang] now controls the building so that’s why you see them milking the heck out of concerts…he’s making money from parking and concessions, so he’s got something there,” said Botta.
Botta later offered his thoughts on the current state of the team, who had high hopes for the 2010-2011 year before losing two key players in Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit to preseason injuries.
“They came into the season with this mantra: no excuses. They fixed some holes on ‘D,’ brought in vets, believed in Scott Gordon’s system … now it’s sliding further and further down hill. They’re not awful, they just haven’t been able to figure it out lately,” said Botta.
In light of the situation, Botta, in bittersweet fashion for the lifelong fan, hopes to move forward as quickly as possible.
“I care a lot about the franchise and that’s the issue that’s kind of made this absurd. They helped me start this business. I’ve been around it a long time — it doesn’t get any better than having your dummy brother, who’s a Ranger fan — drive you to the Stanley Cup Parade.
“I do think this is silly what happened and I hope it gets turned around and we’ll go from there,” he said.