Islanders president Chris Dey last week told radio announcers Chris King and Steve Mears their contracts will not be renewed for the coming season. Madison Square Garden Network made television announcers Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe available for a radio simulcast, so Dey chose to cut payroll by letting King and Mears go.
King, 48, has been part of every Islanders radio broadcast for the past 15 years, including the last 11 years on a full-time basis as analyst and color commentator. Mears, 29, has handled the radio play-by-play duties for the past three seasons.
Although Rose and Jaffe are a superb television team, their style is tailored to that medium, describing instant replays, diagramming plays and conversing about the game. A radio broadcast is more detailed and more wordy in terms of play-by-play description, while the TV crew relies more heavily on the pictures to tell the story.
Madison Square Garden holds the Islanders' television and radio rights and made the simulcast signal available to the Islanders in similar fashion to what it has done with the NHL Buffalo Sabres. MSG is owned by Cablevision, which owns Newsday. Cablevision also owns the NHL Rangers and NBA Knicks, but it maintains both TV and radio broadcast teams for those franchises.
It's still possible King will do pregame and postgame radio shows, and he might even land a full-time job elsewhere in the organization. Most likely, Mears will try to continue his hockey announcing career elsewhere.
Hard to believe that, at a time when the franchise has an opportunity to turn things around with the drafting of John Tavares, it cuts back the number of people who tell the team's story to the public. Who will conduct the postgame soirees at Doolins' Pub after home games at the Coliseum now that King and Mears are out of the picture? They were devoted members of the franchise "family," and no one worked harder at their jobs.
In a story in Wednesday's edition of Newsday, King describes the announcing job he held as his "dream job" and said he would be "thrilled" if he's allowed to remain in the organization in a fulltime capacity. Mears also thanked the Islanders for the opportunity they gave him and said he will miss the relationship he and King developed with the fans.
"I'd like to convey my appreciation to the fans," Mears said. "We had a lot of fun in conversations , in e-mails, on Facebook and talking at Doolins' Pub. I'm happy the team is headed in the right direction. It was great to work with Chris King, and I'm happy to call him and his family my friends."