My family is by no means a hockey family. My father grew up in Israel. He played soccer his entire childhood and didn’t know what hockey was until he spent an extended amount of time here. My mother was never into sports, even though my grandfather would always take her to Rangers games as a kid. My great-aunt as well as my grandmother both can’t stand the sport, always complaining about the amount of violence that takes place. I was different though. I fell in love with this game about ten years ago, and the Nassau Coliseum was at the center of almost all of my hockey memories.
My first ever game (ironically), came against the Philadelphia Flyers about 10 years ago. I was at a friend’s house that morning and he asked me if I wanted to come to the game. I had no clue what the Islanders or hockey were. The Islanders lost that game 5-3. I remember always asking my friend’s dad who every penalty was on, and why players wore A’s and C’s on their jerseys. I thought, in all honesty, that if a player had a letter on their jersey that another can wear the same number but with a different letter. When I saw Bill Guerin wear his number 13, I was determined to find 13A or 13B for the entire game, but obviously to no avail.
For a while afterwards, I fell out of touch with the game. I went to the Coliseum again for a friend’s birthday, but the Isles’ lost 2-1 to the Panthers. It was one night when I was flipping through the TV channels that I found the Islanders taking on the Sabres. The game went to a long shootout and I remember Rick DiPietro celebrating when the Islanders finally won. Something clicked that night and I started to develop a connection to the team.
I went to my first win in December 2009. The Islanders were playing the Bruins. The Islanders were down 2-1 in that game but Matt Moulson tied it on a bouncing puck late in the second period. In overtime, Frans Nielsen scored on a breakaway, going to his famous backhand to beat Tim Thomas. By then I was hooked, so much so that I convinced my parents that it would be a good gift for my dad’s birthday to see the Islanders take on the Flyers. While the idea was solely for my own benefit, we had an amazing time watching the Isles end a long losing streak they had to the Flyers.
Soon after, I became addicted to the sport. I almost never missed a game. I would come home from school and go to the Islanders website to check for any news or updates. I eventually bought my first hockey video game, and started to actually play the sport. It took a long time but I got my first jersey as well. I was officially a true Islanders fan.
Some notable games I attended over the years have been the Islanders defeating the Rangers where John Tavares scored his first ever home hat trick. My best seats were in section 102 when I saw the team defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs. I cried after the team lost their home opener to the Dallas Stars as well as when I found out my parents bought me tickets to their opener against the Devils following the 2012 lockout.
I went to three games during the 2014-2015 season, the team’s last at the Old Barn. I saw them defeat the Capitals when Tavares walked out of the corner in overtime and blew a shot by Braden Holtby. I saw the team a few nights later defeat the New Jersey Devils 2-1. I went a few months later to their game against the Blue Jackets when they won again 6-4. I never had the chance to attend a playoff game at the Coliseum, but watching Tavares score against both the Capitals that April and the Penguins a few years earlier is something I’ll never forget.
When the Islanders lost game 7 against the Capitals that season, I knew it was the end of an era. I remember the iconic blue rim around the boards and how well it meshed with the team’s jerseys. I remember when the goal horn was so crisp and loud that it gave you goosebumps. I remember how loud it got during their run to the playoffs in 2015. I was shook to my core every time “Fix You” played on the loudspeaker and the Coliseum would turn pitch black. Then out of the corner of the rink Jaroslav Halak would lead the team out to a roar of cheers from the crowd. It might’ve been a dump, but it was our dump. It was our Old Barn.
Since the team left for Brooklyn, I have loyally followed. I’ve been to six regular season games as well as game four of the series two years ago against the Panthers. The rally towel from that night still hangs in my room. Though, as fun as seeing the Islanders may be, it will never compare to when they played in the Coliseum.
When I found out that the team will play one final game at the new Coliseum, I knew I had to get tickets. I feel privileged knowing that I will be a part of history when the Islanders return to the Coliseum. As devoted Islanders fans, we should take the opportunity to enjoy the team at their rightful home at least one more time. There are tickets still available and I encourage everyone to just buy a ticket to be a part of what’s sure to be an amazing atmosphere. You can’t move forward without looking back, and the Islanders are devoting a game to honor their historic past before moving on to hopefully another successful season in Brooklyn. No matter the result, tomorrow is sure to bring memories back to anyone who had the opportunity to step foot inside that historic building.