March 29th! Arguably one of the most exciting days of the year for the New York Islanders supporting section 329, or as a lot of people know, the Blue and Orange Army. For 11 years now, the Blue and Orange Army have been a part of all New York Islander home games. From section 329 at the old barn, all the way to 229 at the Barc, and of course, the group will be moving to the Stable starting the 2021-2022 NHL season.
11 years is a long time for a group of guys to grow into what they have. Starting in 2009, just a couple of loud friends decided to start being loud and chanting. Original member Tom LoFaso was asked if he thought the army would grow to what it has over the years, “Honestly no I didn’t. I thought it was just going to be the same few of us annoying everyone in the building. Didn’t think at all so many people would join and even the team would embrace it.” As for me personally, at first, I didn’t understand the idea or plan while I sat in other locations around the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Going to the Coliseum was basically like going to a temple for me. It was 2+ times a week, 3 hours at a time, get away from regular everyday life for as long as I can remember. In 2007, the islanders would introduce Loudville in section 230, for $10 per seat with a school id. In 2009, I recall going to a bunch of loudville games and looking over my shoulder and thinking, can’t those guys just enjoy the game, yes that’s right, I wasn’t a fan of the section AT FIRST. Let me make that clear, at first I wasn’t a fan lol. After meeting guys like Tom and a couple of other members, I would end up going to hang out with them during the empty arena games, and the next thing I knew, I was hooked.
During the 2012-2013 short season, while dealing with personal things, I was at games physically but mentally, I was dealing with life. Despite mentally not being there, a bunch of the members including Tom and James Fess would still see me, push me to chant and keep me riled up for games. Section 329 became more than an Islanders support section, but they became more of a life-supporting section.
Like a current member, Scott Harris said, “329 is my second family and I couldn’t imagine watching the Islanders play anywhere else.” From 2013-2014 and ever since I haven’t wanted to sit any place else in any building the Isles have played in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have had tickets elsewhere in the building, however, I’ve always worked my way to the Blue and Orange Army. From an empty Nassau Coliseum to a packed house in the Barc in Brooklyn, the Blue and Orange Army consistently show up. One of the biggest struggles I have had since joining the BOA has been to explain the group to outsiders.
“The ultimate supporter section in the entire NHL where every Islander fan is welcome to join,” Craig Richardson told me when I asked him to describe the group. Which in my opinion, is the best way to describe the group. Another way, just a bunch of fun-loving hockey fans who are very welcoming to everybody minus ranger fans. Sorry Ranger fans, you are not welcome, ever into our group. We have fans come and join us from Finland and Germany. While building the foundation of the group, it grew to the point of the team noticing.
As the team started plans to embark on a new chapter and move to the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, they made it clear that they wanted to include the blue and orange army. Now, since the Barc only has 2 sections, the group had to figure out the best spot to stand and cheer every game. Head of BOA, James Fess, was able to figure that section 229 was the perfect place to keep the BOA legacy going in Brooklyn. Of course, when the team would announce the return to the Island, you knew exactly where the group would be. The upper deck, the corner where on May 24, 1980, Bobby Nystrom would turn and be mobbed by his teammates after scoring the game-winning goal to clinch the first of 4 straight Stanley Cups.
Some people may ask, what happen to the army during bubble play. Well, I was able to sit with Fess on the SNDPODCAST episode 253 back in June to discuss the plans. Even during that conversation, I don’t think Fess and I could have really imagined how great watching it would turn out to be watching games during the same. Starting off game 1 hanging out at Fess’s backyard on August 1st, all the way to hanging on the beach for the clinching game 7 vs Philly. September 5th, 2020 the night the Islanders would clitch their way to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993, and there is no other group of people I wanted to watch that happen with. Like the Song/Chant says as found on the BOA website, “We Got The Best Beaches And The Best Hockey!”
Now, as everybody knows, the New York Islanders will be moving into a brand new building for the 2021-2022 season. UBS Arena, located in Belmont New York, was helped brought to life by co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. This was the absolute best thing to have for a struggling franchise looking for a home. So the first thing of course I thought was, what about the Blue and Orange Army.
Of course, the head of the group Fess was on top of everything! Being in touch with the organization and having them want to help, has got to be a special feeling. “It’s a great feeling to know you have the support of the franchise. Working closely with the staff has really been helpful for bringing some very cool ideas to life, and the best is yet to come! Belmont329 is going to bring everything BOA to new levels, we can’t wait!!!” Fess said. Of course, we also discussed a lot of the plans on the podcast previously mentioned. Hearing this was great news especially for myself, who has been a big-time supporter of the group, and a common single-game ticket member with the Blue and Orange Army. With driving by the construction just about 5+ times per week, I am not just pumped for the group to be there, but the entire Blue and Orange Army to be back together in October.