For the last month, the Islanders have allowed fans into Nassau Coliseum in a limited capacity following strict guidelines to ensure they can safely go to a game. Luckily, I had the chance to attend Saturday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Flyers and had the chance to speak to a few fans in attendance about what the new normal is like at a game this year.
“It really is just great to be back,” Islanders fan Jennifer Lapka said outside the Coliseum prior to the game. “It was great being at the arena with my child and not having to watch the game at home.”
It was a new experience at the “Old Barn”. Some of the changes made for safety in the Coliseum start in the parking lot prior to the game. Cars parked in every other space and the parking lot didn’t open until 5 p.m. to prevent fans from gathering and tailgating. Then, upon entering the building, fans must complete a health survey, pass a temperature check and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or be fully vaccinated for more than two weeks.
I definitely felt more comfortable entering a building with a large number of people, knowing that everyone needed to have a negative test or be fully vaccinated. All of that on top of wearing our masks the entire time let me truly feel comfortable. And a big shoutout to all of the fans surrounding section 214, because I didn’t notice a single person shed their mask the entire game.
Inside the Coliseum, all of the concession stands were closed, but food and drinks were available with food trucks conveniently located around the outside of the building, limiting any lines or small gatherings to an outside space where social distancing could occur.
Personally, when I go to any hockey game, food isn’t a necessity because it is hard to passionately cheer on your team with a hot dog in one hand and drink in the other, but the fact the Islanders had the food trucks set up was a great way to still let the fans get food and limit the crowds in the smaller Coliseum hallways.
“I mean it’s close to normal, but nothing is going to be normal for a while but it’s cool and it’s good,” Decker Hoffman from the Islanders clothing line “Yes Men Outfitters” said. “It’s fun and we’re starting to get back to moving forward and we’re excited for UBS Arena (next year).”
After Saturday’s dramatic finish, what brought back the most nostalgia was all of the car horns beeping the “Let’s Go Islander” chant.
“I really think I missed the horns the most,” Lapka said.
The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but the Islanders have a pretty good system in place to allow fans to not only come and support their team but for families to come back out and make new memories.
“My favorite Islanders moment was winning the first Cup” Frank Kehoe said with his three sons Brendan, Aiden and Shawn outside the Coliseum before the game. “But every time I’m able to come to (the Coliseum) with (my kids) it’s another great moment.”
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