It’s been about two and a half years since the Islanders played a regular season game at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders ended their 2014-2015 campaign in the Barn after they lost to the Washington Capitals in a hard-fought first round battle. Since then, the Isles moved to Brooklyn and the Coliseum underwent renovations. Despite winning a playoff round against the Panthers in 2016 in Brooklyn, the overall atmosphere around the team hasn’t been the same since they left the Coliseum.
“Fort Neverlose” was the Islanders home rink since they entered the league in 1972. It’s seen incredible moments like the Stanley Cup winning goal in 1980, Mike Bossy’s 50th goal, and Shawn Bates penalty shot against Toronto in ’02 to name a few.
“I’m surprised the roof’s still there,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said.
He played his first full season at the Coliseum and despite not being there for any of the aforementioned moments at the Old Barn, he could tell what it was like. The energy in the building is palpable.
“I can’t tell you how many games we won [in ’14-’15] just because we had the momentum of the crowd behind us. A good shift turned into three with that kind of momentum.”
The Islanders had one of the best home records that season and in their history.
Head coach Barry Trotz was no stranger to the Coliseum’s energy. He was coaching the Capitals when they played the Islanders in that 2015 series. He had to deal with the fans constantly yelling and cheering through all three close games played at the Coliseum. He’s glad to now be on the other side of that matchup.
“I’m excited for the people on the Island… It’ll be special to be back there. I think that’s the right place [for hockey]. It feels right.”
Islanders alumni Clark Gilles and Bob Nystrom got to see the new renovations ahead of Saturday’s game. They say it still feels like 1980.
“We went up and down those hallways many times… most of the time we were celebrating a victory.” Gilles said. “It’s a special place for all of us that played on those teams. Just glad to be back.”
The Islanders will open their Coliseum-half of the schedule against the last team who played a regular season game in the Barn, the Columbus Blue Jackets. They beat the Isles 4-3 in a shootout on the closing night of the season. The loss forced the Islanders to start the Playoffs on the road against Washington. An extra game on Hempstead Turnpike might have had an major impact on the outcome of that series. The Islanders play the Jackets again on Saturday, hopeful to use it as a springboard to a successful remainder of the season and a playoff berth come April.
Quotes courtesy of NHL.com