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Nassau Coliseum: Deserves Its Scorn, Deserves Its Reverence

Honestly, the rug really ties the room together.
Honestly, the rug really ties the room together.

Anyone who has attended a New York Islanders game at Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum knows why the place gets slammed: The concourses are too narrow, certain large passengers cannot fit into the bathroom stalls, they frequently let feral Rangers fans in the door, born-yesterday Penguins fans often get their feelings hurt, the exterior architecture is uninspiring, space for locker rooms and team offices is cramped ... you know the complaints.

In ESPN's latest "Ultimate Team Ranking" the Islanders do not finish last -- rather, the Toronto Maple Leafs do -- but the Islanders' home since 1972 sure does. With stadium categories based on venue quality, promotions, and environment, the "mausoleum" didn't stand a chance. (Aside: What on earth are the Redskins doing at what's-it field?)

For a business owner, the Coliseum is no place to run a hockey team. For a fan though? I'm not so quick to dismiss it.

That's nothing to do with nostalgia (although the banners and the history help) and everything to do with great sight lines and an intimate auditory setting that makes for a great purely in-game experience. When the team on the ice gives fans reason to pack the building and reason to cheer, the low-roofed, no-frills building itself is an asset, not a detriment.

It's the same environment I miss from all the NHL's old barns that have gone by the wayside. In the new buildings around the NHL, plush cupholders and in-seat service and obnoxious scoreboards and luxury suites eating up half the interior are all ... nice, I suppose.

But I don't go to a hockey game to eat sushi, sit in a soft seat, or admire the urinals. I go to a game to watch hockey, with others who are crazy about the sport.

From a business standpoint and a (sub)urban development standpoint, I know the building needs to go. Charles Wang needs its replacement if he or any future owner is to bring the Islanders back to glory (short of an oil oligarch just dumping money into the toy, Chelsea FC-style).

But when it goes, you bet I'll miss it for what it can do. And you?