BAYSHORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — What would you say if a hockey team parted with their top player in the offseason, but somehow got better?

That’s just what happened to the New York Islanders, who find themselves the talk of the National Hockey League and the sudden top-dogs in the Empire State.

Patrick “Sign Guy” Dowd is a lifelong fan and if you don’t recognize him, you probably recognize his iconic signs — over the past 47 years, he’s made hundreds of them. Now that the Islanders are the only team in New York at the top of their division, he’s found some new friends.

“Fans are coming out in droves to tailgate,” Dowd said. “The place is packed. I’ve run into people I haven’t seen in years. Being back on Long Island is key, it’s the number one thing.”

When captain John Tavares jumped ship for Toronto, most experts thought the Islanders would unravel at the seams.

Sure enough, those same experts were proven wrong. The Isles don’t have a star player, so they’re doing it all with blue collar players.

So is that why it’s resonating with fans so much more?

“I would say so because the expectations were not very high, and they’ve come out of nowhere and everybody is contributing,” Dowd said.

In the past 27 years, the team’s only won one playoff series. So some say that’s what makes this year a little more special.

“Dark years and years when we thought the team would be here, but here you go talking about the Stanley Cup,” Dowd said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Dowd says he doesn’t let his team’s success go to his head.

“You walk with pride and have a very humble approach and just smile to yourself,” he said.

His optimism comes naturally. After all, he’s a chaplain — something that shows in his signs.

“There are times when you’re down by three goals, but if you always believe, anything can happen,” he said.

‘Always Believe’ — a perfect message to all members of the Islanders faithful, and one that will be on full display on Dowd’s newest sign at Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.

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