NY Sports Day
Peter Schwartz

Schwartz: The Riptide Honors Long Island’s Past

If the walls of the Nassau Coliseum could talk, they would tell the stories of the many professional sports teams that have called the building home over the years.

The walls would tell the stories of the Islanders’ birth in 1972, the Stanley Cup dynasty from 1980 to 1983, the sadness of their departure in 2015 and the joy of their temporary part-time return this season.

There would be tales of Julius Erving and the New York Nets winning two ABA Championships before Dr. J was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers after the merger with the NBA.

The New York Dragons of the Arena Football League called the Nassau Coliseum home from 2001 to 2008 and had three Eastern Division championship banners hanging in the rafters.

Lacrosse has also been a big part of the Coliseum’s history including the New York Saints who called Uniondale home from 1989 to 2003. Those games were a lot of fun and the Coliseum was a great venue for a sport that is played by so many kids on Long Island. It’s been a while, but now indoor lacrosse is back at the barn.

In December, the National Lacrosse League awarded an expansion team for New York to GF Sports and on Sunday the name and colors of the team were revealed in a ceremony at NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before the New York Open tennis finals.

The New York Riptide will begin play at the Coliseum starting this coming December and the logo revealed on Sunday features a lacrosse stick with swirling water that reflects “the unrelenting power of the team”. The colors are navy blue and orange which is very familiar to Long Island sports fans but there is also the addition of sea foam green to add a signature Riptide feel.

“It’s super exciting to have an opportunity to take the next step in the process with the team name,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “I couldn’t be more happy with the name.”

With blue and orange in the logo, the Riptide form and immediate bond to the Islanders and the Saints but they have also created a look of their own. The logo was revealed during a spectacular video that was shown on the Coliseum scoreboard and then young lacrosse players stepped onto the black courts to fire balls with the Riptide logo into the stands.

Thorpe was a busy man on Sunday conducting lacrosse clinics in the Coliseum’s Exhibition Hall and then was part of the ceremony to unveil the new team’s spectacular logo.

“I just think its awesome,” said Thorpe. “We’re excited about it but the community is excited about it and that’s what we’re about. We really want to be a team that the community can really wrap their arms around and we can feel a part of and they can feel a part of our team.”

In determining the name of the franchise, the team asked the fans for their input on their website and the winning choice was the New York Riptide. There were probably a few votes for “Saints” from some old school lacrosse fans on Long Island, but it’s clear that this new franchise needed it’s own identity.

And that’s not to say that somewhere down the road, the Riptide could be the Saints for a day.

“We certainly respect the history here but going out to the fans and seeing what they wanted, it was awesome,” said Thorpe. “We’re certainly going to find ways to honor the tradition here whether its throwback jersey night or just honoring the history because we feel very strongly about that.”

On hand for the ceremony on Sunday were two legendary athletes that helped their teams win a combined eight championships while playing at Nassau Coliseum. Butch Goring was a member of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup teams while goalkeeper Shep Messing led the New York Arrows to four Major Indoor Soccer League championships from 1979 to 1982.

Goring is no stranger to indoor lacrosse and welcomes the Coliseum’s newest team with open arms.

“I played box lacrosse as a kid so I know what kind of sport it is and it’s very similar to hockey,” said Goring. “There are so many kids playing on Long Island and much like hockey you have to have heroes. Lacrosse is trending in only one direction and that’s up. When I think Riptide, I think dangerous and I think that sends a message to everyone that’s in the league that this is going to be a dangerous lacrosse team.”

With Messing defending the nets that were set into the hockey boards, the Arrows won the first four MISL championships in league history. He was also a goalkeeper for the New York Cosmos so you would think everyone in his family would just be soccer fans. But in a crazy twist of fate, Messing has a strong connection to lacrosse.

He told the story on Sunday of his grandchildren loving lacrosse and as it turns out one of his former Arrows teammates is now the Commissioner of the National Lacrosse League.

“One of my friends Nick Sakiewicz was formerly my backup goalkeeper on the New York Arrows so it comes full circle,” said Messing. “I’m happy for the league, I’m happy for the owners and I’m happy to have this team here. Lacrosse is, in 2019, what maybe indoor soccer was in the 80’s. It’s exploding so I plan on being a season ticket holder.”

What’s old is certainly new again at the Coliseum with the return of indoor lacrosse with the Riptide as well as the temporary return of the Islanders. So, could there be a return of indoor soccer to Long Island as well?

If Messing has his way, the Coliseum will need to have two artificial turf field at some point in the future.

“I’m in discussion,” said Messing. “I do think there’s a future for the New York Arrows in this building at the Nassau Coliseum. Who knows who the partner will be but I definitely think that especially with the Riptide here to have two winter teams playing here, lacrosse and indoor soccer..the Riptide and the New York Arrows..I think that’s a win-win.”

The Riptide hope to do a lot of winning when they hit the field for the 2019-20 season. Now that the logo reveal is in the books, there’s a lot of work to do to get ready for the franchise’s inaugural season. The Riptide will now begin the process of mapping out the team’s staff as well as developing strategies.

Thorpe, along with assistant General Manger and Director of Lacrosse Operations Lance Basler, are busy watching games in the league this season while getting ready to stock the Riptide’s roster at the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

“Free agency and the expansion draft are crucial for building some of your core guys but the entry draft in September is really going to be huge for us and how we develop our future for the next couple of drafts,” said Thorpe. “We’ve been watching a lot of games and getting our stuff together. We’re pretty excited and like where we’re at. It’s going to come quick…we’re already in mid-February.”

And before you know it, the New York Riptide will selecting players in the expansion draft, choosing players in the entry draft, signing free agents, starting training camp, and getting onto the field at Nassau Coliseum for the 2019-20 season. The return of indoor lacrosse to Long Island has been long overdue, but it certainly looks like the wait was worth it.


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