As New York Islanders playoff hockey returned for the first time to the Nassau Coliseum since leaving for Brooklyn, it finally felt like the fans were able to come back home.
As we walked through the throngs of tailgaters in the Coliseum parking lot the afternoon of the New York Islanders first home playoff game, I don’t think anyone knew the Islanders would complete a sweep of the Penguins less than a week later. We, like many of the fans, were just enjoying the moment.
Though there was a lot of so-called experts picking the Penguins to beat the Islanders, we didn’t hear any of that.
On this night, in the parking lot at the Nassau Veteran’s Coliseum (I refuse to call it NYCB Live), there was nothing but positive energy coming from the fans, enjoying BBQ’s, beverages, companionship, bag toss, music, and spending time with families, some getting their first taste of Islander playoff hockey.
My family and I have attended Islander games for more than 40 years, many with season tickets, including this year. Admittedly, when the Isles went to Brooklyn we gave up our tickets as the drive/commute from Suffolk was too painful, but when the Isles and NHL agreed to host some games at the Coliseum this year we immediately jumped on board.
Did anyone know the Isles were going to be this good? Who knew that the Coliseum, a place with so many memories and Stanley Cup Championships would literally revive a team and the fan base? The building so many loved to hate now has become beloved and a treasure to the fan base.
The walk through the parking lot was a revival of sorts for us and the rest of the fans as we mingled with old friends and met new ones. Everyone was delighted by the fact that the Isles were hosting their first playoff home game in three years with home-ice advantage to boot! Who knew?
There will continue to be challenges and angst for fans about Belmont, the Barclay’s and future talent. As the first-round series opened we the faithful needed this team, in this building, this year, and at that moment.
The Isles rewarded the fans with an OT win and an atmosphere for a whole new generation of fans, many of whom have only heard about what the Coliseum is like when the Isles win.
There is real pride and support for this team as evidenced by the volume of the cheering and chanting. Game one felt like a reunification of old memories, while new ones were ready to be made. The Coliseum was home, the fans were home, and the pride is real.