For 20 days in September, our esteemed staff is previewing the 20 biggest questions facing the New York Islanders this season. I also have no idea what I’m talking about, so please adjust your expectations accordingly.
The Islanders are playing games at Nassau Coliseum again this season, and the only things more loaded than this topic will be the tailgaters in the parking lot.
For over half of its lifespan, this franchise has not had what anyone would consider a stable arena situation. My colleagues and I have written more than we’d care to remember about the various twists and turns of a saga that simply won’t end, and it’s fair to say we’re all pretty sick of it at this point.
Another guy who was clearly sick of it is Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky who, during his many handshaking sojourns, heard from fans that they wanted the team to return to their ancestral home in Nassau County. It’s true that a very vocal portion of the fanbase prefers to remember the familiarity of days gone by rather than the municipal malfeasance, embarrassing attendance and crumbling construction that have dogged that cursed plot of real estate for decades. Ledecky himself repeatedly threw water on the idea (as did NHL commissioner Gary Bettman), saying that a return to the tiny, antiquated, newly tin-foiled Coliseum didn’t make any sense either financially or logistically for the team.
And so in a solution only the Islanders could come up with, Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin decided the team would play their games at BOTH Nassau Coliseum AND Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the only arena in America that worked harder to convince one of its tenant teams to go away than it did to prepare for their arrival.
This is, as you can imagine, an inelegant answer to a problem that, we hope, will finally be solved for good when the team’s new arena at Belmont Park is complete in 2021 (if not sooner). Not only did the NHL sign off on the idea despite the extra strain on scheduling, travel and ticket sales for every club involved, but, thanks to “high demand” for more games there, the original slate of 12 Coliseum dates was expanded to 20, which will add up to 60 over the next three seasons. No announcement has been made about where playoff games [insert laughter] will be played.
Here’s the list of Islanders home games at Nassau Coliseum this season. Congrats to the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets on getting to stay at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale more than once this season. Take my advice and order from Zorns.
- Sept. 16 vs Flyers (1 p.m., preseason)
- Dec. 1 vs. Blue Jackets
- Dec. 10. vs. Penguins
- Dec. 15 vs. Red Wings
- Jan. 3 vs. Blackhawks
- Jan. 8 vs. Hurricanes
- Jan. 17 vs. Devils
- Jan. 20 vs. Ducks (3 p.m.)
- Feb. 1 vs. Lightning
- Feb. 2 vs. Kings
- Feb. 26 vs. Flames
- March 1 vs. Capitals
- March 3 vs. Flyers (3 p.m.)
- March 5 vs. Senators
- March 9 vs. Flyers
- March 11 vs. Blue Jackets
- March 14 vs. Canadiens
- March 19 vs. Bruins
- March 24 vs. Coyotes (3 p.m.)
- March 30 vs. Sabres
- April 1 vs. Maple Leafs
Please note the three weekend afternoon games for maximum tailgating fun. Please also note that the April 1st game features the Toronto Maple Leafs and John Tavares, the guy who was so excited to play again in such a special place with so many great memories that he left to sign somewhere else.
Please also also note that the regular season games begin in December in order to allow time for upgrades to be made to the Coliseum’s locker room, ice plant and video broadcasting abilities. The renovations are expected to cost $10 million, of which the state will pay $6 million and the team the rest while getting a break on the taxes (Relax. Someone has already lit the Field of Schemes Signal).
BONUS QUESTION: This is stupid, right?
The whole thing is indeed incredibly stupid, but what else would we expect from this organization?
It’s so bizarre that frankly I’m still surprised that Lou Lamoriello - a hockey man so traditional that he probably wants to outlaw curved stick blades - signed on to run this team knowing that this would be the set-up. Always enthusiastic Barry Trotz sounds predictably enthusiastic about coaching at the Coliseum, and talked excitedly about that pretty epic first round playoff series between his old Caps team and the Islanders from 2015 as well as the potentiality of getting hit with a beer or two by a raucous crowd (Note: Please don’t throw anything at anyone).
The temporary move isn’t just about placating grousing customers, though. We’re told the players generally like games at the Coliseum because of the easier commute from their Long Island homes. The team’s practice facility is also right across the street in Eisenhower Park. And in fairness, most if not all of the scum-sucking political leeches that caused the Islanders to leave in the first place three years ago have either been voted out of office or simply slithered off into the nearest toilet. The new folks in charge deserve at least a chance to show they’re not the pure, uncut shit salad sandwiches who proceeded them.
Still, this all feels very wrong, and yet another example for media outlets (particularly Canadian ones) to use as proof that the Islanders are a blight on the NHL and the sport of hockey at large.
With Lamoriello and Trotz on board, the franchise will get a certain amount of respect that it wouldn’t have been given in the past, and the weekend games at the Coliseum should be well attended. But if, for example, that game against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, January 8, looks like, you know, a game at Nassau Coliseum against the Hurricanes in January, then nobody will come out looking good. And the embarrassment level will reach critical mass before a shovel even gets into the ground at Belmont.
The best case scenario for these games is that the Coliseum’s 13,000 seats remain mostly full and that when Belmont is done, this whole chapter is a weird footnote in history, like that year the Mets, Jets, Yankees and Giants all played at Shea Stadium.
But for now, we’ll have to suffer through yet another Islanders-only solution to an Islanders-only problem. Make sure to pack enough ice for the pregame tailgate party.