When Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello met with the media following this past season, one of the topics of discussion was where the Islanders would be playing their home pre-season games. It was a pertinent question at the time, because the expectation was that the Islanders’ new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park was not going to be ready in time for any pre-season games.
“We will play our home pre-season games, as of this moment unless something changes, in Bridgeport,” said Lamoriello during a conference call on June 29th.
On Monday, the Islanders announced their six-game pre-season schedule and Webster Bank Arena will indeed be the venue for the three Isles home games during exhibition play. The Islanders will host the Devils on October 2nd at 2pm, the Flyers on October 5th at 7pm and the Rangers on October 9th at 7pm. With UBS Arena not scheduled to open until November 20th when the Islanders host the Calgary Flames, the team needed a temporary venue to host their pre-season contests.
Another option could have been an absolute final goodbye to the Nassau Coliseum, but the Islanders decided on the home of the AHL affiliate. Three months ago, the Islanders announced a change in the name of their top minor league club from the “Bridgeport Sound Tigers” to the “Bridgeport Islanders” and now the Islanders are further cementing their roots in Bridgeport by playing all of their pre-season home games there.
The name change and the announcement of the Islanders playing their pre-season home games in Bridgeport come as the team continues to negotiate with the city on a new ten-year lease at Webster Bank Arena as well as proposed arena upgrades.
“We wanted to create a stronger connection between the New York Islanders and their AHL affiliate up here,” said Bridgeport Islanders President of Business Operations Brent Rossi back on May 11th when the name change was announced. “We’ve been working with the city over the last couple of years to figure out what the future of this venue is going to be. I’m very optimistic that we’re heading in a very good direction.”
This coming season will be the 20th in franchise history for the Sound Tigers/Islanders and the bond between the parent club and affiliate continues to get stronger. The Islanders have played eight prior pre-season games at the home of their AHL affiliate including three straight against the Rangers from 2017 to 2019. But this year, Bridgeport will be the Islanders’ pre-season home away from home with three games and it’s a chance to attract some fans from Long Island to see just how great of a hockey venue Webster Bank Arena is.
Islanders fans that can’t wait to see their team open up UBS Arena on November 20th can either take the Port Jeff Ferry to Bridgeport or make the drive north on I-95 to see the team in action during the pre-season. The Islanders will start the 2021-22 season with 13 games on the road, so further connecting their fan base with Bridgeport should be a good reason for fans to come see the AHL Islanders in action. The Bridgeport Islanders will play their home opener on Saturday October 23rd against the Springfield Thunderbirds.