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IslesBlog Says Goodbye to the Coliseum: Part 1

It’s still hard to believe that the New York Islanders playoff run is over, and it’s even harder to fathom that Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum has hosted its final game.

This year’s team brought back a lot of memories for the Isles fanbase. For the younger generation, it finally gave them something special to experience. The Coliseum returned to its former glory, with Islanders fans proving that they are not only the best fans in hockey, but also the loudest and most passionate.

With the “Old Barn” doors officially closing for good, the IslesBlog writing staff looked back on our memories of the Coliseum.

Matt Watling: Contributor

“My coliseum memory has to be Game Six of Isles-Pens during the lockout shortened season in 2013. It was my first memory of playoff hockey and was truly unbelievable. The underdog mentality was so fun to be a part. Even though they lost, the fans gave the Isles a standing ovation because of how proud we were. Special shout out to the guy with a “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” sign. Jesse Joensuu had no idea what was going on with it during warmups!”

David Tuchman: Contributor

“The Coliseum was another home for me. My Grandma Lil, my Aunt Cheryl and Aunt Robin all had season tickets along with my parents. When I went, it was like Thanksgiving. A family get together each and every time.

I was lucky because when I was a little kid, I used to occasionally play hockey there. The pros would stop and watch US for a moment or two. That was always a huge thrill.”

Ethan Greenberg: Contributor

“I have so many great memories inside the Coli. I’ll go with the John Tavares return game in 2019. That was probably the most insane atmosphere I’ve ever seen at the ‘Old Barn’. The place was buzzing the second warmups began with rubber snakes being thrown on the ice. All the different chants and songs throughout the game made this one stick out to me. The result wasn’t too bad either, a 6-1 Islander win on a night nobody in attendance will ever forget.”

Brooks Simpson: Contributor

“I first entered Nassau Coliseum on March 13, 1973, to watch the Islanders play the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Although the Isles had actually defeated the Bruins 9-7 in Boston Garden earlier that year, history would not repeat itself that night. What I did not fully grasp at the time was that it was the first game for two raw rookies named Garry Howatt and Bob Nystrom. Billy Smith set a NHL record for goalie penalty minutes that night, and Howatt angered Bobby Orr.

The Coliseum was brand new with great sight lines, an improvement over its Manhattan rival. It was easy to get to and both intimate and loud. I loved it.

In years to come I would see some great games, although I was not living on the Island. I remember a clutch last-period tie against Montreal during the team’s first playoff push in 1975, as well as the team’s last playoff win against the Rangers in 1990 (in overtime) followed by Bryan Trottier’s last game as an Islander. But in some ways my most memorable game came in 2019.

You see, I had seen two games in March 2015, and that was what I felt to be my farewell to the Coliseum. But, thanks to my friend Ethan Rafuse (a Caps fan), I came back to sit rinkside on March 1, 2019, when the Isles and the Caps battled for playoff position. Before the game I just sat and remembered the great moments and how they would have looked from where I was sitting … Nystrom’s OT Cup winner … Bossy’s 50 in 50 … Tonelli in Game 5 in 1982 … Trottier, Tonelli, and Bossy in the first period of Game 4 in 1983 … all those memories that I had seen in television from Madison, Wisconsin. Then, when the Isles scored that night, the fellow with the TV camera turned around and focused on me. Just wild.”

Ben Mandell: Contributor

“I really don’t think there is any moment that tops the Coliseum’s final game for me. The atmosphere was unbelievable and the comeback against the juggernaut team from Tampa Bay was truly incredible. For the game to end the way it did, just over a minute into overtime and with fans covering the ice with whatever beverage they had, felt like a unique way to celebrate the unbelievable game we just witnessed.

The other memory I have from the Coli was my first game at the ‘Old Barn.’ It was a regular season game against the Detroit Red Wings and I was down near the glass for warmups with my mom and I remember getting the attention of backup goaltender Anders Nilsson, who shared a few laughs with me and then flipped me a puck. It was a moment that I’ll never forget and that helped draw a young fan into the sport.”

(Part 2 to be released next week)

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About Ben Mandell

My name is Ben Mandell and I currently reside in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I work at a local newspaper called the Times Leader, where I cover the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Wilkes University men's ice hockey, and other local high school and college sports. Here at Isles Blog, I will be providing Bridgeport Sound Tigers coverage, prospect coverage and other Islanders opinion pieces.

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