Islanders heading ‘home’ for the weekend
Will Host Flyers at Nassau Coliseum in Exhibition Opener on Sunday
The New York Islanders, who have been making headlines all summer for where they might eventually play, be it Belmont Park or Willets Point or right here in Downtown Brooklyn, will be re-visiting their old haunts this weekend.
The Islanders will open their preseason slate against Philadelphia at a place called NYCB Live on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
The arena, which has been renovated under the guidance of former Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center owner Bruce Ratner, is more commonly referred to as the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Or, as most Islander fans like to call it, “The Old Barn.”
During their first 43 years of existence, a stretch that featured four Stanley Cup titles, an amazing streak of 19 consecutive playoff series wins and the anointment of several Hall of Famers, the Coliseum was the only home the Islanders knew.
Now Brooklyn-based on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, the franchise’s Sunday matinee in Uniondale, N.Y., will provide an opportunity for some of the younger Isles, like Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal, to get a feel for what it was like when the blue and orange reigned supreme on the tri-state area hockey scene.
“I see it from outside every time I’m here, but I’ve not been able to skate on it,” Barzal said after the Isles’ rookie squad held a morning practice on the Coliseum ice Tuesday morning. “Being able to skate there for the first time was a pretty cool experience.”
“I know this meant a lot to the fans, so it’s nice to get a chance to be a part of it,” added Ho-Sang. “Hopefully I get a chance to play here on Sunday and really feel what it was like to play here.”
He doubtlessly will as the Isles will have their full roster ready and available to roll out onto the Coliseum ice Sunday, unofficially kicking off their third season since leaving Long Island at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.
In their first two seasons here in Brooklyn, the Isles have gone 47-23-12 at Barclays, including their first playoff series win since 1993, a mark that should have them jumping for joy over the home-ice advantage they have enjoyed since their inaugural campaign here in 2015-16.
But poor ice conditions, sub-standard sight lines, an eye-sore-inducing empty section along the ice and less-than-stellar attendance figures have team ownership, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, actively seeking a new home.
The landlord, Nets and Barclays center owner Mikhail Prokhorov, is also hoping his tenants can relocate as the arena is on the line for paying the Isles upwards of $50 million a season, as per terms of the original lease agreement.
It appears likely the Isles will make a bid to build a new arena in Belmont later this month, opening the door for their departure from the Downtown scene. But until the details of their new home are worked out, they will remain in Brooklyn for at least this season, and likely next year as well.
For veterans like team captain John Tavares, who skated in Uniondale from 2009-15, “The Old Barn” will have a new look Sunday.
The seats are now painted black and grey, the scoreboards are bigger and the entire concourse has been fully refurbished.
The Isles will enter the ice via what used to be the visitor’s tunnel, because they are dressing in the locker room of the Nets’ G-League basketball affiliate.
They also won’t see any of the Stanley Cup banners the Isles won during the halcyon years of 1980-83, as those artifacts have been relocated to Brooklyn.
“There was a lot of history here,” said 22-year-old Isles defenseman Kyle Burroughs.
“I know when we just came back through the halls here, having it painted was a little different. I used to see all of those Stanley Cup-winning teams and all the banners that were in the rafters. It’s cool to be back. It’s a little different not having that stuff up here, but it’s still good to be back on that ice.”
Islander fans wishing that this one-off exhibition opens the door for a return to Long Island for the franchise had better not get their hopes up.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman already shot down that idea last Friday.
“I don’t view the Nassau Coliseum as a viable option,” he said. “Ultimately, whether or not the Islanders want to consider that and bring it to the league or something, you’ve had to ask them about it. But my gut reaction is it’s not a viable option.”
Isle Have Another: The Isles’ rookies pulled out a dramatic 4-3 win in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, rallying from a late two-goal deficit to win the game in overtime at Wells Fargo Center. Mitchell Vande Sompel potted the clincher in OT after Arnaud Durandeau and Sebastian Aho scored late in regulation to knot the score. “Perseverance, hard work and determination,” Vande Sompel cited as the reasons for the comeback. “We were down 3-1, and you looked down the bench and no one was down or anything. Everyone was moving at high energy and we believed.” … The Isles got some bad news on the injury front this week as center Alan Quine was diagnosed with the infamous “upper-body injury”, meaning he will miss the next four-to-six weeks of action. Quine had 18 points (five goals and 13 assists) in 61 games last season, his first full campaign with the Islanders. Quine’s injury will likely keep him out of training camp and the start of the regular season, which begins Oct. 6 in Columbus, Ohio.
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