This Saturday, the Islanders will play their final regular season home game at Nassau Coliseum when they welcome the New Jersey Devils to “The Barn”. On February 29th of last year, the day that Butch Goring’s number 91 was retired and raised to the Coliseum rafters, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would be playing all of their home games this season at Nassau Coliseum before moving into their new home UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season. So, the Nassau Coliseum was going to get a second goodbye and the hope was that it would be better than the goodbye from six years ago.
What we didn’t know was that the COVID-19 pandemic would turn our world upside down. Last season’s playoffs took place in a bubble and this season began with no fans allowed at Islanders home games. The capacity allowed for indoor sporting events will rise to ten percent on May 19th, but for now only ten percent of capacity is allowed at Nassau Coliseum meaning there will only be 1,400 fans on hand this Saturday for the final regular season home game. That number will increase to 4,175 for the playoffs, but the Nassau Coliseum is deserving of a proper sendoff and in a perfect world that would be 13,917 fans and a farewell ceremony to be remembered.
But it doesn’t look like that will happen, even if the Islanders go on to win the Stanley Cup.
With only 1,400 on hand, the atmosphere won’t be what it should be for the final regular season home game and, as of now, there are no plans for any type of special ceremony to say goodbye to a building with so many great memories. While it’s true that there are still playoff games to come, that was the case six years ago when the Islanders first said goodbye to the Coliseum and it was a dud.
During the 2014-15 season, the Islanders paid tribute to the Nassau Coliseum with a series of season-long promotions during what was the 43rd and “final” season at the Coliseum before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.
The Islanders brought back some of the greatest players in franchise history and on those nights, fans received a commemorative mini-locker including the jersey and helmet of that player. There was even a helmet in the Clark Gillies locker even though he only wore one for a short time at the end of his career. The Bobby Nystrom locker didn’t have a helmet because he never wore one, but I insist to this day there should have been a miniature Stanley Cup in the locker in place of a helmet.
And who could forget the night when the Islanders brought back the controversial fisherman logo for special pre-game warmup jerseys that were auctioned off for charity.
The “final” regular season home game took place on April 11th, 2015, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets that cost the Islanders home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals, a series that the Islanders lost in seven games. That “final” home game was a tough pill to swallow, not just because the Islanders lost, but because the organization whiffed on the pre-game ceremony that was supposed to honor the team’s 43-year history at the storied building. The Islanders brought back Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald to emcee the ceremony that including the introduction of Claire Arbour, the wife of legendary Islanders coach Al Arbour.
There was also a band that played at one of the Stanley Cup parades and a handful of alumni on hand, but the ceremony fell way short of giving the Nassau Coliseum the sendoff that it deserved.
The ice should have been covered with Islanders alumni and special guests.
The Islanders should have worn white jerseys like they did for the first regular season home game on October 7th, 1972.
Fans should have been treated to some sort of promotional giveaway in addition to game program.
Here in New York, the old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium received fantastic sendoffs in 2008 and there have been teams around the NHL like the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Detroit Red Wings that gave their old homes a proper goodbye. Nassau Coliseum deserves the same and there have been two chances to do it.
In 2015, the organization was to blame for a less than stellar ceremony.
This season, the pandemic is to blame for the Islanders not having a second chance to give the Coliseum a proper goodbye.
The Nassau Coliseum isn’t going anywhere…at least that’s the plan for now. The New York Riptide of the National Lacrosse League and the Long Island Nets of the G-League will still play their home games there and it sounds like there will be other smaller scale sporting events and concerts at the Coliseum as well. It just would have been nice for the fans and the organization to enjoy a fitting Islanders goodbye.
I’ll be at the game with my family on Saturday night and I’m sure it will be an emotional evening. I just wish we could be four out of 13,917 instead of 4 out of just 1,400.