Tale Of The Ticket: A Broken Down Bus And My First Islanders Game  

During the coronavirus pandemic, Peter Schwartz has been going through his collection of ticket stubs and this is one in a series about some of the games and events he went to that have interesting stories.

A lot of people ask me how I became an Islanders fan and it’s a fair question given that I was born in New York City, lived in Queens until I was 12, and that my first ever NHL game was a Rangers game.  To be honest, my father wasn’t a huge hockey fan when I was growing up so we went to a lot of baseball, football and basketball games.  It was only because my uncle’s company had Rangers season tickets that we did go to a couple of games at Madison Square Garden.  I liked it but it didn’t give me the same special feeling I had going to Yankees, Mets, Jets and Knicks games.

Living in Forest Hills, we did not have cable television in our apartment so my sports viewing options were limited to what was on over the air television including channel 9 which had tons of sports including the Mets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers and as I found out one night, the Islanders.  I don’t remember who the Islanders were playing the night I watched them for the first time, which was in 1977, but I do remember loving the logo, the colors and hearing broadcasters Tim Ryan and George Michael on the call.

I was ten years old and I was becoming a huge Islanders fan while many of my friends were Rangers fans!

That 1977-78 team, coming off of back-to-back trips to the semifinals, was terrific and filled with stars like rookie Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, and Billy Smith.  I started watching all of the games on television but I really wanted to see a game in person.  I kept asking my father when we could go to Long Island and see an Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum but nothing ever materialized.  Channel 9 only showed Islanders away games so I had no idea what the Nassau Coliseum looked like or what it sounded like other than listening on the radio.

One day, my parents had some good news for me.  We were members of the Queens Jewish Center in Forest Hills and my parents were notified that they were going to have a group outing to an Islanders game with a bus ride included on Saturday January 7th, 1978 against the Cleveland Barons.  My father bought two tickets and it was a done deal…I was going to my first Islanders game!

On the day of the game, my father and I arrived at the temple for the bus trip to Nassau Coliseum.  The bus was not there on time and the clock kept ticking.  Everybody from the group going to the game started to wonder if the bus was going to arrive in time to get us to the game on time.  Then, the group organizer was notified by the bus company that the bus had broken down and they were sending a different bus to take us to the game.

At this point, there was no way that we were going to arrive in time for the opening face-off.

Once the replacement bus finally arrived, we departed Queens for Long Island and luckily somebody on the trip had a radio with them.  When the game started, he was letting everyone know what was happening.   The bus erupted when we found out that Bob Bourne scored in the first period to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead and it stayed that way as the bus pulled into the Nassau Coliseum parking lot.  This was the first time that I had ever seen the building and my heart was racing.  We got off the bus and entered the Coliseum late in the first period and when we got to our seats, I remember just looking around taking it all in.

“The Barn” was packed and it was electric.

The Islanders took a 1-0 lead to the second period and the lead grew to 3-0 on goals from Denis Potvin and Eddie Westfall.  Potvin would add his second of the game and Bobby Nystrom also scored giving the Islanders a 5-2 lead after two periods.  The Barons got one back in the third period but the Islanders won the game 5-3 and I couldn’t have been happier.  Even though our bus had broken down and we got to the game late, my first Islanders game was certainly a memorable experience.

I wasn’t collecting ticket stubs just yet so I didn’t ask my father for the stubs from the game that night.  It was shortly after that game that I started collecting the stubs from all of the games that I was at and I’ve continued that hobby all these years later.  I have the stubs from just about all of the games I ever went to, but it always bothered me that I didn’t have the stub from my first Islanders game.  That was until a week or so ago when I was on eBay and decided to search “Islanders Barons 1978”.

And to my absolute shock, somebody was selling a ticket stub from that game!  I mean…of all random games in Islanders history, somebody was selling a ticket stub from the first game I ever went to.

Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in a ticket stub that wasn’t mine, but the stub had a seat location of section 308, row J, seat 3 in the end promenade and I remember that we had sat in the upper bowl in the corner somewhere.  I don’t remember the exact section we sat in, but I figured this was close enough and there was no way that I was not going to buy it.  That was a special night for me and now I have a ticket stub from the game to add to my collection.

I was already an Islanders fan before January 7th, 1978, but that night, I fell in love with them and the Nassau Coliseum.  It was so cool being at a game for the first time and it hit me that night how special it was to go to games there.   I’m going to miss “The Barn” because I have so many great memories there but there will be even more memories made starting next season at UBS Arena.

Maybe I’ll take the bus to the first game.  On second thought, I think I’ll just drive to the game with my family!

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY 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.

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