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Courting
nypost.com

a prez
New York Post, Friday, December 7, 2018

pardon?
Issue at cop-bribe trial
By KAJA WHITEHOUSE in real estate,” Meringolo
told the judge about Rechnitz
President Trump’s pardon and Trump. “They have a
power was used to impeach long­standing relationship.” BILLY GOAT: The Islanders’ decision to use
a witness at the NYPD brib­ Manhattan federal prose­ a Billy Joel (bottom right) song about a Long
ery trial Thursday. cutor Martin Bell argued Island fisherman as inspiration for their new
The pardon issue came up that the conversation about logo in 1995 led to a terrible marketing move.
when a defense lawyer going to Washington oc­ Their “Gorton’s fisherman” (above) look turned
asked the government’s key curred before Trump was the NHL team into laughingstocks. They soon
witness, Jona Rechnitz, elected, and slammed ques­ ditched the logo and mascot Nyisles (opposite
about his “politically con­ tions identifying political right) for their classic logo (near right) and
nected” father’s support of affiliations as unfairly prej­ mascot Sparky the Dragon (far right).
Trump — followed up by a udicial.
question about whether But the judge declined to
Rechnitz was planning to strike it, or Rechnitz’s “no”
seek such a reprieve from answer.
the commander in chief. Rechnitz is the govern­
The comment caused an ment’s star witness in a case
uproar, including objec­ alleging far­reaching brib­
tions from prosecutors, ery at the NYPD. He has
who called it “outrageously testified that he teamed up
prejudicial” and demanded with Borough Park police li­
that it be stricken from the aison Jeremy Reichberg to
record. shower cops with lavish
But defense lawyer John gifts in exchange for perks,
Meringolo argued that it including parking placards.
was a legitimate question Meringolo represents
because Rechnitz’s dad had Reichberg’s co­defendant,
attended a Trump fund­ former NYPD Deputy In­
raiser in 2016 — and was spector James Grant, who
caught on wiretap telling stands accused of providing
his son they would “just go police escorts and helping
down to Washington” to fix the men secure gun permits
Rechnitz’s legal woes. in exchange for gifts.
“They have a relationship kwhitehouse@nypost.com By REED TUCKER book “We Want Fish Sticks: The Bi­ new fans, but they couldn’t afford
zarre and Infamous Rebranding of arena upgrades or to buy good play­
T was all Billy Joel’s fault. the New York Islanders” (University ers,” Hirshon says. “The easiest way

‘Choke’ nanny on stand
A nanny on trial for at­ mon Blutreich and his wife,
I In 1995, the New York Islanders
decided to freshen the team’s
look by introducing a new logo,
jersey and mascot. The decision
of Nebraska Press, out Dec. 1).
The Islanders had once been a
powerhouse team that won four
straight Stanley Cups in the early
to make a quick buck is to change
the jersey around.”

N 1988, the Los Angeles Kings had
tempted murder testified
Thursday that she didn’t
stuff a baby wipe down a 2­
Meredith Sondler­Bazar, to
land the baby­sitting gig.
She confessed that she
eventually turned into one of the
biggest sports­marketing disasters of
all time and a debacle that still ran­
1980s. But by the ’90s, it had lost
steam. The underperforming club
got swept by their hated rivals, the
I trumpeted their acquisition of
Wayne Gretzky by unveiling a new
silver­and­black look. They rocketed
month­old boy’s throat. lied on her résumé and pro­ kles local hockey fans Rangers, in the 1994 from last to first in merchandise
Marianne Benjamin­Wil­ vided fake phone numbers decades later. playoffs, and attendance sales, leaving other sports franchises
liams, 47, said the little boy for her references. “It was a last­gasp at­ at the dilapidated Nas­ desperate to emulate that success.
suddenly started gasping For one reference, she ad­ tempt to rejuvenate a sau Coliseum was flat­ And so, the Islanders set out to
for air on May 18, 2017. mitted she begged a school­ small­market team on lining. Equally alarming ditch their logo — a map of Long Is­
“I just thought it was go­ teacher friend to pose as a the brink of collapse, was the team’s appalling land with the letters NY emblazoned
ing to be his last breath,” man named John Polakoff. and it failed due to poor merchandise sales: The on top — which had been with the
she tearfully told Manhat­ Her pal told Blutreich on planning, penny­pinch­ Islanders ranked 24th team since its founding in 1972.
tan Supreme Court jurors. the phone that Williams ing, miscommunication out of 26 NHL teams in They hired a Manhattan firm, Sean
“Every moment, I thought I had cared for his kids for and misfortune,” says apparel dollars. Michael Edwards Design, and at­
was going to lose him.” nearly two years — but he Nicholas Hirshon, a jour­ The team’s owner­ tempted to answer the toughest
But she insisted she “never actually had no children. nalism professor at Wil­ ship group decided question: What exactly constituted
tried to kill” the infant. “I lied to get a job,” she liam Paterson University change was required. an “Islander?”
Assistant DA Nicole said. “I did a desperate act, and the author of the new “They needed to get One exec joked it should be a
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Blumberg grilled her about which I will forever regret.”
the lies she told Dr. Salo­ Rebecca Rosenberg
21

New York Post, Friday, December 7, 2018
nypost.com
Getty Images
woman carrying a Bloomingdale’s to do any focus­group research. saying, “I’d like to assassinate him. ment caved to the pressure and sey for up to 15 home games in
bag stepping out of a Lexus. No “If you would have thrown that I think he’s stupid.” was ready to change back by the the 1996­97 season before aban­
obvious candidates presented image out to a group of kinder­ Rob Di Fiore, the man inside end of the season. But the NHL, doning the revamped look en­
themselves for such a diverse gartners, they would have said the costume, who was paid $75 worried retailers would be stuck tirely the following year.
community. this is the Gorton’s fisherman,” per game, was subjected to end­ with an unsellable product, made “It was clear that this logo
And this is where Billy Joel comes Hirshon says. less abuse. At one game, a young the team keep the fisherman brought out such strong feelings,
in. The Long Islander had in 1990 The new jerseys debuted in the boy punched him and kicked him around for a second season. that they wanted to move past it
released the song “The Downeaster 1995­96 season, and fans and de­ in the groin. Although the reaction to the as quickly as they could,” Hir­
‘Alexa,’ ” which detailed the plight tractors alike immediately no­ An angry Di Fiore changed into jersey change was overwhelm­ shon says.
of a local fisherman who was strug­ ticed the resemblance to the fro­ street clothes and later found the ingly negative, the shift actually “For years, it was whitewashed.
gling with a dwindling catch and zen­food icon. One dismayed sup­ boy in the stands. He bent had helped sales. There would be no merchandise
tough regulations. porter hoisted a banner at the down and whispered in the The Islanders sold some available. You’d go around the
The team’s ownership liked the Coliseum reading, “Fish sticks are child’s ear, “I know who 10,000 fisherman jerseys in arena and there wouldn’t be any
idea of incorporating the island’s for dinner, not our logo.” you are.” The kid never the 1996­97 season and photos of players wearing the
seafaring heritage into the team’s bothered him again. moved up to 17th in over­ jersey. There was nothing.”
identity and saw the Joel song and HE Islanders also introduced The disastrous market­ all NHL apparel sales. One of the main lessons from
its video, featuring weathered
boatmen, as a direction to follow.
A designer eventually created
T a new mascot. Nyisles (pro­
nounced “Niles”) was a 7­
foot fisherman caricature with a
ing moves were not helped
by the team’s performance.
The Islanders finished in
But the fisherman
was soon drowned
for good. The
the disaster was about timing.
“You really want to rebrand
when you have a winning team,”
an image of an older, bearded 15­pound plastic head and a red the division cellar. NHL gave the Hirshon says. “It’s not a Band­Aid
man in a rain slicker and oilskin flashing light atop his head. He Fan reaction to the Islanders to cover up when you’re losing.
hat holding a hockey stick. fell as flat as a flounder. logo change continued permission Fans will see right through that.”
The team rushed to unveil the Fans booed him at his debut, and to be just as hideous. to wear their That and never turn to Billy
new look to the public, but failed one 10­year­old boy was quoted as The team’s manage­ original jer­ Joel for marketing advice.
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