May 22nd, 1993.
That was the last time that the Nassau Coliseum hosted an Islanders home game in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. On that night, the Islanders won game four of the Wales Conference Finals beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Two nights later in Montreal, the Islanders’ magical post-season run came to an end when they lost game five 5-2 and they lost the series four games to one.
28 years later, the NHL’s version of the “Final Four” returns to “The Barn” on Thursday night when the Islanders host the Tampa Bay Lightning in game three of the Stanley Cup Semifinals with the series tied at a game apiece. (8pm NBCSN). This is the Islanders’ final post-season run at Nassau Coliseum as they are set to move to their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park for the 2021-22 season. After wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and the Boston Bruins in round two, the Islanders have continued to extend their stay in Uniondale.
It seems like the Islanders and their fans just aren’t ready to say goodbye to Nassau Coliseum just yet.
“Yeah, it’s a special place,” said Islanders forward Josh Bailey. “I think it means so much to our organization (and) to our fan base. You can just feel the support I’m sure when you’re watching on TV (and) especially if you’re there live. It’s just a great place to play hockey and a great fan base to play in front of. When it gets to Thursday, I’m sure our fans are going to be ready to go.”
Islander fans being ready to go is probably one of the great understatements of all time.
For the opening round against the Penguins, COVID-19 restrictions allowed 6,800 fans for games three and four and then the capacity was allowed to increase to 9,000 for game six. For round two against the Bruins, the capacity increased again to 12,000 fans for each game. In all cases, the tickets were gobbled up quickly by season ticket holders and a limited number of fans who were able to get tickets in a general sale.
When semifinal tickets became available to season ticket holders on Tuesday, the demand was so high that the Islanders had to stop the pre-sale and was then reset for Wednesday because of “extraordinary demand” and a “very powerful display of support for the Isles.”
“It is fantastic,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “I don’t know any other word. The energy that this fan base brings is just something special. If you haven’t experienced it, I think you should try and be there live. If you think it’s exciting watching it on TV, you should be there.”
For younger Islander fans, these are very exciting times because for many of them, the success that the Islanders have enjoyed over the last three seasons is unchartered territory. The energy in the building for the home games has been amazing. The songs and chants, especially the ones coming from the “Blue and Orange Army” in section 329 have been a mix of Coliseum favorites like “Hey Josh Bailey”, “Ohhhh…Ohhhh…Ohhhh” and “Pageau-Pageau-Pageau” as well as “New York Saints”, a new chant created for game six against Boston thanks to comments made by Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy following game five of the Islanders/Bruins second round series.
“I don’t know to expect each and every night and how they synchronize some of the things they do,” said Lamoriello. “It’s almost like they’re talking to each other when they decide to do a certain chant or anything else.”
There’s another generation of Islanders fans that are re-energized having not been able to feel this excited since that 1993 playoff run when the Islanders knocked off the Washington Capitals in round one and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in round two. And for those fans that go all the way back to the dynasty years from 1980 to 1983 and the 19 straight playoff series wins between 1980 and 1984, these last couple of seasons are starting to bring back a lot of memories.
The Islanders are in the Stanley Cup Semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they did it six straight years from 1979 to 1984. For all of Islanders Country, these are special times.
“It’s exciting,” said Islanders forward Casey Cizikas. “You see them at the games…they’re cheering…they’re going nuts. You see people in bars getting together in groups with their Islanders jerseys on. You see the love from everywhere. You want to go out there and you want to compete for them. You want to do whatever you can to keep them coming. We’re doing that. We’re playing hard and it’s a fun show to watch.”
Since the Stanley Cup dynasty years, there have certainly been plenty of down times and moments for the Islanders over the last 37 years.
*Al Arbour retires for the first time
*The “Gang of Four” management team
*The Fisherman Jersey
*Pigs At The Trough”
*The Failed Referendum”
*Islanders leave Nassau Coliseum for Barclays Center
*John Tavares leaves as a free agent to sign with the Maple Leafs
Islanders fans of all ages have endured a lot over the years, but their patience and loyalty are paying off in a big way right now with a good team and a new arena.
“They’re real fans,” said Lamoriello. “Certainly, they’re used to seeing some great success in past years and right now they’re thriving with the experiences they’re going through and we’re feeding off it.”
The Nassau Coliseum has grown louder and louder with each home game during this playoff run. With each shift, period, game and series, the Islanders have energized multiple generations of their fan base and the energy has been through the roof. To that point, I keep wondering if that’s how the Islanders will say goodbye to the Nassau Coliseum forever…
With 12,000 fans making so much noise that it blows the roof off “The Barn”.