A sellout crowd made about as much noise as 1,400 people could make in the closing seconds of the Islanders’ 5-1 win over the Devils on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. After three straight losses that dropped the Islanders out of contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, all Islanders Country wanted to see was the Isles find their game again and for the post part that’s what happened on Saturday. There were plenty of “Let’s go Islanders” chants and also chants indicating that the fans were ready for the playoffs.
When the game was over, my family and I walked around the inner concourse between the upper and lower bowls and made our way to one end of the ice closest to the exit near where our car was parked. I started to walk through the gateway and when I arrived at the outer concourse, I realized that the rest of my family wasn’t with me. When I walked back to the gate towards the inner concourse, there was my son Jared just staring out onto the ice, the championship banners and retired numbers, and an empty arena that my family and had been to on countless occasions.
My wife Sheryl then said two words to me…
(My sons Bradley and Jared after Saturday’s game)
If all goes according to plan, Saturday’s game will go down in history as the Islanders’ final regular season home game at Nassau Coliseum and the reality of that hit my sons Bradley and Jared on the way out of the game. Not knowing if we’ll be able to get to a playoff game, the boys just wanted a final Islanders moment in “The Barn” and we did that while also taking some photos. Sheryl asked me if I was ok and I even though there were tons of memories going through my head and emotions going through my body, I was able to hold it together.
For me, there were two reasons…
First, there will be at least two Islanders home playoff games that I’m scheduled to cover for New York Sports Day.
And second, I’m not so sure it was the last Islanders regular season home game ever at Nassau Coliseum.
Unlike the last time the Islanders played a “final” regular season home game at “The Barn” in 2015, there really wasn’t any big deal made about this game by the team. Other than the “1972” themed t-shirts that were on the seats when fans arrived at the game on Saturday, there was never any mention by the team on their website or any of their social media channels indicating that this was the final game. It’s been a weird season that started with no fans in the building because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then the building was allowed to open to ten percent of capacity.
There was reason to celebrate when fans were able to return, but for whatever reason the Islanders have chosen not to commemorate their final season at the Nassau Coliseum. There is excitement about the move to the Islanders’ new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park which is scheduled to open this fall, but no pomp and circumstance around what could be the end for the Islanders’ iconic home that has four Stanley Cup banners, numerous division and conference championship banners, and retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
So many people were asking me in the days leading up to Saturday if the Islanders were going to do anything special and my response was always that I didn’t think there would be anything. So, aside from the “1972” t-shirts that could be interpreted in several different ways, it was just like any other home game this season.
There wasn’t an elaborate pre-game ceremony to commemorate the last game.
If there were any former Islanders in the building, there wasn’t any mention of it.
The game puck didn’t even commemorate the game and I know that because my son Bradley was able to get one that was shot over the glass.
There’s only one logical explanation for all of that and that is that the Islanders may not feel it was Nassau Coliseum’s regular season finale.
I’ve heard from a few people familiar with the Islanders situation that there is a feeling that UBS Arena might not be ready on time and if that’s the case it would mean that the Islanders might have to start next season playing a few games at Nassau Coliseum. As much as everyone is excited about the new place, there is growing sentiment among the fan base that “The Barn” deserves a better goodbye than what it has received this season.
By this fall, hopefully we’re at a stage with the pandemic where you could have 13,917 fans on hand to say goodbye to Nassau Coliseum instead of the 1,400 that have been going to home games or the 3,479 (25 percent) that will be at the playoff games. The Islanders’ first choice would be to play all of their home games next season at UBS Arena, even if it means playing on the road for the first couple of weeks of the season. But, if the timetable for completion of the new arena changes, the Coliseum could get a third final hurrah.
Not knowing 100 percent what the future holds, if Saturday was indeed the last regular season home game at Nassau Coliseum, it was a better result than the 5-4 shootout loss to Columbus at the first finale on April 11th, 2015. This time, there were plenty of cheers and tears on a night when the Islanders ending their losing streak as they continue to tune up for the playoffs.
(My family and I at Saturday’s game)
When we left the building, I was still in good shape but my son Bradley was a mess and Jared just kept saying “goodbye coli”. I was fine all night until that point but as we approached the car I started to well up. It won’t be the last time I’ll be in the building because there will be Islanders playoff games and the Coliseum will still be the home of the National Lacrosse League’s New York Riptide and the NBA G-League’s Long Island Nets.
But I started to lose it because it hit me that it just might be the last time that my family and I will have gone to an Islanders game together at Nassau Coliseum. My father took me to my first game in 1978 and I went to countless games with my parents and brother growing up. Being able to take my own family to games has been special and I’m looking forward to creating more special family moments at UBS Arena.
Cheers to the Nassau Coliseum if this was indeed and again the finale.
The tears were real and the memories have been spectacular.