Islanders Will Have A Second Chance To Properly Say Goodbye To Nassau Coliseum

Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello was chock full of good news during his end of season press conference with reporters on Tuesday.  He announced that defenseman Adam Pelech and forwards Casey Cizikas and Tom Kuhnackl, three players that had to leave the bubble during the playoffs because of injury, all had successful surgery and will be ready for the start of training camp.  He also said that he is confident that he’ll be able to re-sign restricted free agents Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews as well as unrestricted free agents “in due time”.

Lamoriello also confirmed that the Islanders will call the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, currently shuttered while the lease is taken over by a new owner, the team’s home for the 2020-21 season.

“We will definitely be playing at the Coliseum next year,” said Lamoriello, the 2019-19 NHL General Manager of the Year.  “That is a confirmation.”

That is fantastic news.

A Second Chance To Say Goodbye:

And that also confirms that the Islanders will get a second chance to give “The Barn” a proper sendoff, something quite frankly the franchise whiffed on back in 2015, their original “final” season at the Coliseum before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  The celebration during the 2014-15 season was really good with lots of terrific promotional nights including inviting back some of the greatest players in franchise history.  There was even a night when the Islanders brought back the infamous “fisherman” logo for warmup jerseys.

I guess the fisherman jerseys can be debated as to whether that was good or not.

But let me get back to my point.

While the actual final game in the Coliseum before the renovations was the Islanders’ game six victory over the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, it was the last regular season home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 11th, 2014 that was the sought-after ticket by Islanders fans throughout the season.  You wanted to be in the building to be a part of what should have been a gala event to say goodbye to an arena that had housed so many great Islanders moments as well as other great sporting events, concerts, and family shows.

But it was a dud.

Coliseum Needs A Proper Sendoff: 

There were some good things like longtime Islanders television voice Jiggs McDonald serving as the master of ceremonies, a well-done video, a band that was at an Islanders Stanley Cup parade, and a ceremonial puck drop by Claire Arbour, the wife of legendary Islanders Head Coach Al Arbour who was not well enough to attend and has since passed away.

But where were all the former players, coaches, and staff?

How could you not introduce Bobby Nystrom who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime on May 24th, 1980 at the Coliseum?

Where was Eddie Westfall, the Islanders first captain who scored the team’s first ever goal at the Coliseum in 1972?

That ice should have been filled with alumni and invited guests.  There should have been more of a fitting goodbye to Nassau Coliseum even though there were still playoff games coming up.  Many people in the sellout crowd spent well more than face value for the tickets hoping for a special night but all the ceremony was could be described as something a little more you might have for an opening night.

I was at the game with my son Bradley who had with him a pack of tissues that my wife Sheryl sent with him in case I needed it.  I never had to use them because there was nothing to be emotional about.  That building has been so special to so many people and that was the way the team celebrated it?

And then I thought maybe they were saving something for after the game, a contest that the Islanders lost 5-4 in a shootout.  But when the game ended, that was it.  The “final” regular season game at the Nassau Coliseum was over and the lasting memories that Islanders fans have of it is a weak ceremony, the program, a ticket stub, maybe any souvenirs you might have bought, and a loss that cost the Islanders home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Hopefully The Fans Will Be Able To Say Goodbye To The Barn: 

But sometimes in life, you get a second chance to something the right way and now the Islanders will get that chance.  Now, the only question is whether or not there will be fans in the stands whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway.  That is very much up in the air right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic but while the season may start with no fans, there is hope that at some point members of Islanders Country will be able to be part of the team’s true final season at the Coliseum before moving into their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park.

“Hopefully sometime in the coming year at the Coliseum we will have fans,” said Lamoriello.  It’s great to see when we’re looking at professional football right now that depending upon the state that they’re playing we see the fans in the stands. That’s a great sight and it’s a great feeling to see that happening.  Hopefully we can get back to a more normal situation.”

And that normal regular season will hopefully culminate with 13,917 fans at what will truly be the Islanders’ final regular season home game at the Nassau Coliseum.  Hopefully there will be a season long celebration of “The Barn” and that final game can have a pre-game ceremony that will be something special.  There should be everyone from the Arbour and Torrey families to Bossy to Nystrom to Potvin to Trottier to Westfall and also LaFontaine to Flatley to Ferraro to Turgeon to Ziggy to all of the current Islanders.

Maybe the new management of the Coliseum can take off the erector set on the outside of the building and repaint the building white so it looks like it did in 1972?

And this time, for the final regular season game, I’d like to be there with my whole family so my wife Sheryl can have a pack of tissues ready for me and our sons Bradley and Jared.

And this time, I’d actually like to use them.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter covers the Islanders for New York Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club. Peter spent 8 years as the radio play by play voice for the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League. He was also the radio play by play announcer for the XFL’s NY/NJ Hitmen in 2001 and the radio play by play announcer for the New York Saints of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League from 1993 to 1996.

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