If the walls of the Nassau Coliseum could talk, it would tell the tale of the many great moments provided by the New York Islanders over the years including the Stanley Cup Dynasty. The walls would also share stories of the many concerts that have taken place in the venue including the iconic Billy Joel “Live From Long Island” show in 1982 that aired on HBO. Those same walls would also talk about other teams and events that called the Coliseum home like New York Arrows indoor soccer, New York Dragons Arena Football, the Harlem Globetrotters and the circus.
And while those walls at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale had your attention, it would also want to tell you about the rich history of box lacrosse on Long Island and the memories created by the Long Island Tomahawks, New York Saints and the New York Titans who were the last indoor lacrosse team at the Coliseum back in 2007. The walls that felt the building shake because of the likes of Mike Bossy and “The Piano Man”, also heard the roar of the crowd because of indoor lacrosse greats like the Gait Brothers and local heroes.
Many of those players from the Saints and Titans were back at the Coliseum on Saturday night as box lacrosse returned to the Coliseum when the New York Riptide of the National Lacrosse League played their inaugural home game against the Saskatchewan Rush. Former Saints players Vinnie Sombrotto and Armando Polanco took part in the ceremonial opening face-off and then at halftime all of the local lacrosse legends on hand were on the field. Former Saints goalie and head coach Vinnie Pfeiffer delivered an emotional speech that both honored the past and welcomed the Riptide to the legacy of box lacrosse on Long Island.
The Riptide lost the game 11-4 dropping their record to 0-4 but, in any sport, life can be tough for an expansion team. The result on Saturday was certainly disappointing for the 6,089 fans on hand, but the more important aspect of the evening was the fact that the sport was back on Long Island, a tremendous hotbed for lacrosse, and that there was so much energy in the building. The legends of the past were on hand to pass the torch to the new lacrosse heroes of the Riptide that will continue the legacy.
The wins will come for the Riptide. The NLL wanted to make sure that they had the right ownership group and the right venue before they brought the sport back to the New York market. GF Sports has made a significant investment into the Riptide and they have also been able to connect with the lacrosse community on Long Island, specifically the youth lacrosse players and that was evident in the crowd on Saturday night.
The entire organization worked countless hours to get the franchise ready for their first home game and they should be commended because the atmosphere was electric.
General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe is building the team the right way with veteran leadership including defenseman Dan MacRae, the first captain in Riptide history, along with forwards John Ranagan, Tyler Digby and Long Island native Kieran McArdle. There are also many talented young players like first overall pick Tyson Gibson, fellow first rounder Tyson Bomberry and rookie forward Travis Longboat.
The return of box lacrosse to Long Island and to the Nassau Coliseum took a while but now it is back where it belongs. And now that the home opener has come and gone, the Riptide can now turn their attention to their second home game, this Saturday January 4th, and the renewal of the New York/Philadelphia box lacrosse rivalry when the Wings come to the Coliseum.
I was a huge fan of the New York Saints and I was fortunate enough to be their radio announcer from 1993 to 1996, so Saturday night was pretty special to me to see the sport come back and to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. The Islanders’ return to the Coliseum last season was unique and emotional in many ways but having indoor lacrosse back at “The Barn” has brought back so many great memories as well.
It just feels right.