For those long timers here at LHH, you might know that I am studying to become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Part of the ordination process for the denomination is having to do a unit of what is called clinical pastoral education (CPE), or basically chaplaincy.
I did my chaplaincy at Bellevue Hospital (Yes. That. Bellevue.) and I had two fantastic supervisors while I was there. One, a former Catholic priest now United Church of Christ pastor, presented for myself and my nine fellow chaplains a seminary on termination.
Now you would think in our hospital setting and his primarily being a hospice chaplain that it would be about end of life termination but simply it was about saying goodbye in any situation. It is a seminary that will stay with me for the rest of my ministry and the rest of my life. Saying goodbye is hard. And I'm not talking about "See ya!" or "Talk to you later" or something like that... Saying those is easy, it's reassuring us that there will be a next time when sometimes there is not. Goodbye on the other hand is tough. It is definitive.
It is saying that there might not be a next time.
As Islanders fans we will be going through the process of saying goodbye. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, for all intents and purposes, has been put on the sport arena's version of hospice. We know the Islanders will be leaving, we know it will be in 2015... And this time (albeit with the increasingly likely possibility of no NHL this year) we know we will have three seasons to say goodbye to the Ol' Barn on Hempstead Turnpike.
How will you say goodbye? When will you say goodbye? And remember, that last time will be goodbye. That last time there won't be another game played on the ice that Bossy, Potvin, Smith, Trottier, LaFontaine, Gillies and that other guy named Gillies (Jethro? Clark? Something like that) once patrolled.
Sure the banners (Well, except one) and retired numbers will be up in Barclays, but those banners weren't won there and the players didn't have their Hall of Fame careers there. Al Arbor didn't pace behind the bench there. Shawn Bates' penalty shot was not taken there. The sewage pipe did not explode in the visitors' locker room there.
This isn't to say that there won't be new memories, hopefully new great memories, to be made at the Barque (I don't care if anyone else will be using this moniker, I am... Nautical history nerd and all), and it's not to say that we won't remember all the memories from NVMC.
But it won't be the same.
You won't be able to go to a game with someone for the first time, point to a section and say "That's where I saw Cairns beat down Tucker" or "That's where I was sitting when Tonelli to Henning to Nystrom won the Isles the first Cup." anymore. And this isn't to say that the Barque won't be a great venue. We just don't know either way yet and won't know until games are played and won or lost there.
I know that opinions on the move to Brooklyn have been all over the place. For me I will be mourning. I know, you're probably saying to yourself, "How can someone who grew up in Westchester, lived in Albany for the better part of a decade and now lives 1300 miles away from Uniondale really be mourning the Isles moving 15 miles away to Brooklyn?"
Well, I am. I'm mourning the final passing of the old, no frills hockey arenas that NVMC was the last of. I'm mourning that Dom will no longer be able to use (Gloriously Unsponsored) when referring to where the Isles play. I'm mourning that while I had the chance to go there and see the Isles, I was never quite able to convince my Rangers fan father to come with me and probably won't have the opportunity to take in a game with him there since I live so far away now.
Now, there will be things I will not miss about NVMC... like the food, the bathrooms, the seats, the sitting on the Eastbound LIE to get there from Westchester. But at the heart it was never about those things, it was about the game. It was about getting to see the Isles, win or loose.
And I'm mourning when I have seen how great an atmosphere the newer arenas can be when they are electric and still can provide the intimacy that the Islanders claim the Barque will give them. There are few places I would rather be hockey venue wise than the X-Cel Center. Even though the Wild have been struggling of late, the X-Cel is still packed, it still has great energy and the atmosphere there on game night can rarely be beat. But the Wild have been very intentional about creating that atmosphere. I hope the Isles can take a page from what the Wild have done at X-Cel (Maybe hire their Uni designers too to get rid of those ugly black ones).
Finally I don't know whether or not I will be able to say goodbye. I don't know the next time I'll be in New York while A) the Isles are in town and B) there is actually being hockey played.
So for those of you who can, you now have the opportunity to say goodbye to NVMC. You know when the end is coming, you have the chance to say goodbye to the history, the place, the ghosts, the good, the bad, the ugly... All of it.
How will you do it?