The date was December 10th 2005. The New York Islanders faced the Edmonton Oilers in what was a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things outside of the fact that it was former Isles captain Michael Peca’s first game back at the coliseum after he was traded during the offseason. For myself though, this game would unknowingly change my life. It was my first islander game, Rick Dipietro made 27 saves, Trent Hunter scored the game winning goal in the shootout and the Isles won 3-2. Since then the Islanders have been a huge part of my life and today they officially return to Nassau County, where they belong.
The new arena will be located at Belmont Park and hold 18,000 at full capacity which is more than both the Barclays center(15,785) and the old coliseum(16,170). The issue of attendance has always been present because of the inconsistency of the product on the ice but was never a question when the team performed. From the tailgates that started as early as 8 am to the post game festivities and everything in between, the coliseum was the place to be when the islanders were good, which they were 2 out of the last 3 years they played at the old barn. One of my favorite moments at the coliseum was game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2014-2015 season. After splitting the first 2 games in Washington, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was asked about the noise that the building and its fans can produce. In what was, I’m sure, not meant to be an insult but more a compliment to his own fans he responded by saying “I don’t think it’s gonna be louder than Verizon, but we’ll see,”. Before the puck even dropped the thunderous coliseum crowd brought their wrath down on Ovi and the Caps asking one simple question “Can you hear us?”. The intensity and passion shown when the coliseum was rockin was second to none (I get goosebumps just thinking about it) The Islanders went on to win that game in overtime on a goal scored by who else but John Tavares. Speaking of the captain……
The biggest thing this new 18,000 seat arena deal does for the team is give security of a new home to number 91. There have been rumors that this was the biggest hurdle in contract negotiations with the star center and rightly so, before you sign an 8 year contract with a team you’d like to know exactly where you’ll be playing. A new permanent, world class home along with a young talented roster with guys like his line-mates Josh Bailey and Anders Lee and rookie Matt Barzal there should be nothing standing in the way of an extension
The new ownership have delivered on the promises they made and have made this a first class organization. A lot of credit should be given to Charles Wang, the former owner, for keeping this team in the area. He could’ve easily moved to another state or even country but he stuck it out and that shouldn’t be forgotten. Some of my best friends including my podcast partners, the other shows at the SND channel and everyone here at the SND blog I met just through going to Islander games and I was able to do that often because of the location and accessibility of the Nassau Coliseum. I hope this new arena brings that same experience to a new generation of Islander fans, and maybe even a cup or two. As for the name, while I get the cooperate names help with money, I love the idea of Al Arbour Arena.