With all due respect to the opinion of American novelist Thomas Wolfe, the New York Islanders and their fired-up fan base have proven you wrong. You can, indeed, go home again.
Last Saturday night, for the first time since April 25, 2015, the Islanders played a meaningful hockey game in front of a feverish crowd in the building that is their only true home – NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Whether it was the “Let’s Go Islanders” chants that one could hear while driving along Earle Ovington Blvd six hours before puck drop, the aura of the entire sellout crowd joining FDNY firefighter Regina Wilson is a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, or the decibel level after each goal, Islanders fans let it be known, loud and clear, that this is where the team belongs.
“It’s just unbelievable energy,” Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck said after the team’s 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Columbus. “You’d be hard-pressed to find another building in the league with this type of atmosphere. It drives home the fact that this is a special place. You play here all season, it’s worth an extra 10 points. It’s that type of place.”
The waft of barbecue smoke and the imbibing of adult beverages in the parking lots was akin to what is the norm at a Sunday afternoon football tailgate. Energetic fans clad in blue and orange played Cornhole, Nok Hockey, or a popular table sport played with a ping pong ball. But, most were there just to feel a sense of home.
Long-time fan Robert Corsarie, who has already seen the team play 12 times in nine different arenas in 2018-19, made the trek from Naples, Florida. He needs to visit just five arenas to be able to boast that he has seen the Islanders play in every NHL rink. He wasn’t missing this one.
“It’s very special to return to the Coliseum,” Corsarie said. “There is a spirit that comes alive allowing families to enjoy an experience that goes beyond that of a simple hockey game. It is a bond that families on Long Island have shared for almost a half century.”
Legendary Islanders Bob Nystrom and Eddie Westfall, the team’s first captain, were both in attendance, exchanging stories and pleasantries with Islanders faithful. But, this night was about giving the fans a chance to relive and create new memories.
Former East Meadow resident Lisa Puleo treated two of her grandchildren to their first game at the Coliseum. “My husband and I started coming to games the very first year,” Puleo said. “It broke our hearts when the team moved to Brooklyn. The Coliseum has always been our home away from home. I’m thrilled to be able to share this night with the grandkids.”