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.
Daniel Friedman: Columnist
My favorite Coliseum memory is, without a doubt, Presidents’ Day 2007.
The Penguins came into the Coliseum on a tear, having not lost a game in regulation in over a month, thanks to the exploits of a pair of young phenoms named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Islanders, meanwhile, were on the cusp of something but had yet to really get moving. They acquired a defenseman with a cannon of a shot named Marc-Andre Bergeron just prior to that game, in which he made his Isles’ debut.
Right out of the gate, you knew it was going to be a fun one. The teams traded goals, going back and forth all afternoon. The Pens’ Ryan Malone had an incredibly unique hat trick, which was comprised of three goals scored in the opening minute of each period. And, despite the score, Rick DiPietro still managed to impress.
In the final 90 seconds of regulation, the game was tied 5-5 and Crosby had the puck behind the Islander net. You could not knock him off that puck. He was just too strong and too determined. Finally, he centered a pass to a teammate (can’t remember which one) and DP made a huge stop. The Islanders grabbed the rebound and started up ice the other way.
Then, with about 30 seconds left on the clock, Andy Hilbert found a trailing Mike Sillinger who used a Penguin as a screen and flicked a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Isles a 6-5 lead.
Pandemonium ensued. The Islanders won. And, from that point on, they were a freight train. They traded for Ryan Smyth, they made the playoffs, and then they lost to Buffalo in the first round, ending both their season and the Alexei Yashin era. But still, they were back in the playoffs after a brief hiatus. That game was the start of the turnaround, and I’ll never forget being there (sitting in literally the last row of the building on what I’m pretty sure was an actual folding chair) for as long as I live.
Sal Farieri: Contributor
I have loads of memories at the Old Barn, mostly as a former Islanders employee.
As an employee in the game operations department, I essentially was at every home game from 2008-2015. I was there quite often, even during the offseason, to a point where I always considered it my second home. From all the games to constant interaction with the players, to stepping on the Coliseum ice for the first time, to parachuting down t-shirts from the rafters, to cleaning the chuck-a-pucks off the ice, to cleaning the players’ bench after the game, to valeting the players’ cars, it’s fair to say I’ll never forget the memories made living my dream of working for my favorite sports team.
My all-time favorite memory was working my first game ever as Sparky The Dragon (which of course was on President’s day and was a sellout). I was nervous because I never was Sparky at a game before (usually just did events), but the kids and the fans made those nerves go away and I was able to do my thing as I normally did. I’ll never forget the kids I was dancing with in the stands and seeing the joy I brought to their faces. The fan interaction on the concourse was amazing. I loved bringing joy to the fans, especially the young ones. Oh, and I nearly slipped on the fresh-cut ice too!
As a fan, I have to say Josh Bailey’s game-winning goal in OT in Game 1 of the 2019 Quarterfinals series against Pittsburgh was my favorite memory. It was my first Coliseum playoff game as a fan since 2007 against the Buffalo Sabres. Being able to watch a whole game and see that crazy ending is something I’ll always remember.
RREAD MORE: IslesBlog Says Goodbye to the Coliseum Part 1
Ryan Dunnigan: Contributor
The Coliseum has been full of so many memories for many ranging from players to fans, employees, and more. My favorite memories really boil down to two nights.
Game 3 of the opening round during the 2006-2007 playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres. As you may recall the Islanders traded for Ryan Smyth that year for a playoff run. It was my first NHL playoff experience. The atmosphere blew me away. I could feel the building shake. And this was before the puck even dropped. The game ended with a Sabres win, and beer bottles littering the ice in protest of the poor refereeing, but experiencing the playoffs for the first time at the Coliseum is still one of my favorite sports memories.
The other is much more recent. A little over a week ago, the Isles forced a Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning when Anthony Beauvillier scored a quick OT winner. It will go down as the final game at the Coliseum, and it was a night we all will never forget. Being able to take in that environment one last time is almost indescribable. Long after the Isles left the ice I remained in my seat to soak it all in one last time. I was hoping this wouldn’t be goodbye, that we’d all have another two weeks to walk through those gates one last time, but in case it was goodbye I needed this moment.
For the rest of my life when I think of the Coliseum, you’ll see a smile on my face. A New York Mets fan once said to me about Shea Stadium, “It may be a dump, but it’s our dump and I love that building.” I think we can apply that to our Old Barn as well.
Carter Bentivenga: Contributor
My first memory of Nassau Coliseum was actually before I even started watching hockey. When I was in fourth grade (during the 2010-11 season), my elementary school choir got the chance to sing the National Anthem at an Islander game. I still remember it like it was yesterday, the date was March 11, 2011. Anyway, we got to stay for the game and I remember instantly being hooked on how fast and physical the game was. The Isles won as well, which was a big bonus.
Outside of that, I never really started going to Isles games regularly until the 2014-15 season (which was supposed to be the last at the Barn). My mom and grandpa would both take me, and I remember some of the big games we got to see in person including Okposo’s four-goal game against Pittsburgh, the “last” regular season game against Columbus, and Tavares’ OT winner against Washington in Game 3. I’ve been to big games at the Coliseum since then (Tavares’ return, Game 1 against Pittsburgh in ‘19 and Game 6 against Tampa this past year) but those moments from the Barn will stick with me forever.
(Part 3 to come later this week)
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