My favorite season is hockey season, baseball is a close second. I was raised on baseball and growing up, I never had any interest in following hockey even with Nassau Coliseum where the New York Islanders play being 20 minutes away from where I live. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I attended my first hockey game when my friend had an extra ticket for the Islanders game and I fell in love with the sport and the team. I bleed orange and blue for the Islanders — and the Mets as well — and hockey has surpassed baseball as my favorite sport.
As a New Yorker if you want to like a New York based team you have choices, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers or even the Buffalo Sabres. You can argue that I went with the Islanders because they are on Long Island and they are close, but I couldn’t see myself loving any team as much as I love them. They aren’t an obvious choice of a team to fall in love with, but I’m a Mets fan as well, so I’m use to loving a team that struggles.
At the end of this hockey season Nassau Coliseum, the place the Islanders have called home since the team made their debut in 1972 shuts it’s doors. The building and the property it sits on are getting completely redone and with that the Islanders relocate to Brooklyn, 50 minutes away to play at the Barclays Center and share a home with the New York Nets. National league hockey officially leaves Long Island, a day that I’m not really looking forward to seeing.
I’ve only seen Barclays Center from the outside and I’m sure its pretty inside since everything is brand spanking new, but the Coliseum is home. It might be one of the most outdated hockey arenas in the league, but it is an amazing place to see a game. From any seat in the Coliseum you have a great view of the game. I’ve attended at least 30 games in the past few years and have sat all over the Coliseum and can attest to the fact that no seat is bad, not even the last row.
A couple of summers ago I got to go on a private tour of the Coliseum for photographs for the newspaper I worked for. Since it was the summer the ice wasn’t out but they took me out on the floor and I stood at where center ice would be and got to look around from that vantage point. It is an experience I will never forget and one that I will definitely cherish when the doors to the Coliseum are closed forever. I got to go all over the Coliseum and see places you only get to see if you work at the Coliseum or play for the team, like the locker room.
Last night I attended what was the last home opener at the Coliseum. In the past 4 years including last night, I’ve attended 3 out of 4 home openers. Those are my favorite games to attend because aside from it being a clean slate for the beginning of the season, the Coliseum is always filled with so much energy and it is so much fun to be in the building. Before the game starts on the home opener there is always a presentation and last night’s was the start of the farewell to the Coliseum. When the players came out they played the chorus from Coldplay’s Fix You which was so appropriate because of the line “when you lose something you cannot replace.” I wasn’t alive yet during the dynasty years of 1980-1983 when the team won four Stanley Cups in a row, I was born a few months after their 1983 win and I’ve only been a fan for a few years, but I have so many memories tied to that building. It’s the building I fell in love with hockey in, the place where I have screamed my lungs out cheering for Kyle Okposo my favorite Islander, the place where I got to see my first ever hat trick in person done by John Tavares in 2013 and where I have had the opportunity to witness many of Frans Nielsen’s Danish backhand of judgement goals in the shootout. I’ve been there for amazing wins and really tough losses, I’ve seen many hockey fights and many bad calls by the refs. It might not be the best looking place, but its home and no shiny new building can replace it.
I’ll follow the team regardless wherever they go, there was talk of Kansas City a few years ago, so I’ll take Brooklyn any day over there, at least it is in the same state. New memories will be made in Brooklyn, but nothing can replace hockey on Long Island. Maybe one day in the future, it’ll make a return.