At long last, New York Islanders fans tonight get to see their team play in a shiny, brand-spanking-new building -- if only for one night -- as the Isles take on the New Jersey Devils in the much-anticipated first sporting event at the Barclays Jay-Z and Other Non-Jay-Z Entertainment Center in Brooklyn.
For the life of the franchise, the Islanders have played in an undersized, cramped and at times literally falling apart venue built in Nassau County in the 1970s to fend off the WHA and host what was known as the "New York Nets" in basketball's version of the WHA, the ABA.
Incredibly, in the meantime those Nets have switched leagues and states a few times since that opening, while the Islanders have pulled off a dynasty, reeled off an unprecedented 19 playoff series wins in a row ... and remained in the same building for nearly 30 post-dynasty years.
In a display of speedy and prescient planning for which Nassau County would later become famous, it took just one short decade from the acquisition of the former Mitchel Field Army/Air Force Base land in 1961 and the decision to, you know, actually build something there. The Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum proudly opened in 1972, and it has been surrounded by a suburban-friendly expanse of parking lots and no underground transit station ever since.
But with the Islanders' 30-year lease due to expire in 2015, the search for a newer, modern local venue to call home is well underway. One possible though hardly ideal solution: The new arena which has just opened in Brooklyn.
The seating layout isn't ideal for hockey -- the rink spills into one end, creating a "horseshoe" effect -- but the sightlines for the remaining 14,500 seats are expected to be steep and superb, creating a sort of unique charm that could be a welcome relief for Islanders fans used to herding through the narrow Coliseum concourses.
But tonight's the night. Finally, Isles fans get to experience what a new building they could call home could be like.
For a franchise that has seen every kind of misfortune over the past 20 years, what could possibly stand in the way of this little step forward?