By Stephany Reyes and Vanessa Parker
A sold-out, pumped-up crowd celebrated as New York Islanders Captain John Tavares scored an overtime goal on Sunday to give the team a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in its preseason opener at NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale.
Although the team returned to the “old barn” for only a day, the victory drew raucous cheers from the crowd of around 14,000.
The Islanders’ home ice is the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but their future at the arena is uncertain, as team owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin await a Sept. 28 deadline for proposals to develop an arena at Belmont Park in Elmont.
Some fans hope the team returns to the renovated Coliseum, where it played for 43 years, although the National Hockey League has not scheduled any more games there during the 2017-18 season.
“Of course everyone wants them to come back,” East Meadow resident Todd Weinstein said. “They belong at the Coliseum.”
Before the Islanders relocated to Barclays at the start of the 2015-16 season, Weinstein said, he attended four to six games each season with his family. But the hour-and-a-half commute to Brooklyn has dampened his enthusiasm. “I can’t take my kids to a mid-week game to Brooklyn,” he said. “It takes too long to get there, the trains are packed, and it’s a late night for the kids. It’s just a huge hassle.”
Although Weinstein said he remains an Islanders fan, he has not yet attended a single game at Barclay’s, though he plans to. Another local Isles fan and parent, Shari Hausen, agree that the trip from East Meadow to Brooklyn is less than ideal, but she and her 15-year-old son, Sammy, continue to root for the team at home and in Brooklyn.
“Although the [Barclays] Center is a big inconvenience, we try to go to one game a month,” Hausen said. “The Islanders belong at the Coliseum, and it would be absolutely amazing if they came back.”
Because Sammy is a “diehard fan,” she said, they often visit the Twin Rinks Ice Center at Eisenhower Park, where the team practices. Hausen said that if the Islanders relocate to Belmont Park, the trip would be much easier, but “it’s just not the same.”
Other fans, such as Keith Howard, of East Islip, said they think Belmont Park would be an ideal place for the team to play. “Why not build at Belmont?” Howard said. “The Coliseum isn’t near mass transit, and at Belmont they could open the Long Island Rail Road station for use there all year round. I’d have a 40-minute drive to Belmont, which would make going to the games so much easier, and better overall. You can’t say that about Barclay’s. Going to Brooklyn for all their games — it’s hard to get there, whether you drive or take the train.”
Other fans were just happy to see their team play, no matter where the squad ends up. Anthony Cross and Joseph Panasci, both juniors at Carey High School in Franklin Square, said they were glad to be at the game. “I wish they were here all season,” Cross said.
“I love going to any of their games,” Panasci said. “I enjoy the atmosphere the most.”
After the proposal deadline for Belmont Park passes next week, a winning bidder will be determined. At press time on Tuesday, Islanders representatives had not commented on adhering to the deadline, whether or not they submitted a proposal, or what the future plans for settling into a new home might be.
Fans, however, pledged to remain loyal to the team. “We will always stay true to the Islanders!” Hausen said.