A report in Newsday on Friday made real what many Islanders fans had been hoping for.
According to writer Randi Marshall, an announcement will be made before Saturday’s game against the Bruins that the Islanders will play any playoff games this season, as well as all of next season, at Nassau Coliseum, while their new arena at Belmont Park is finished.
The announcement will be made by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has long taken an interest in the Islanders’ hunt to build themselves a forever home on Long Island. This marks the third or fourth time the governor has appeared at an arena-related team event, which is still very odd to see if you’ve been following this saga for as long as many of us have.
This arrangement has apparently been a long time coming, even as the Islanders decided to split their home games between the Coliseum and Barclays Center last year.
The push for the Islanders to play games at the Coliseum until Belmont was built started when the plans for Belmont were first announced in late 2017, Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law noted in a statement.
Cuomo had previously arranged for the Islanders to split their home games during the last two seasons between the Coliseum and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
After Newsday’s report was posted, NHL reporter John Shannon confirmed it with the league.
NHL source confirms there will be an announcement tomorrow saying that the Islanders will play all their playoff games at the Coliseum, as well as, all of next season’s home games at the Coliseum.— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) February 28, 2020
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had long said that a semi-permanent move back to the Coliseum would be unlikely as the 49-year old arena simply isn’t a major league facility anymore. It’s believed that updates have been made that bring the old barn a little closer to something resembling the standard that NHL teams need to play - and, more importantly, broadcast - playoff games. Nassau County executive Laura Curran has been lobbying Bettman for over a year to get the NHL to okay a move back to the Coliseum and told Newsday, “This isn’t just what the fans want - it’s what the players and the organization want too.”
Their return to Uniondale in a regular season game last December was a triumphant, raucous party. The split venue schedule worked for the most part, and the Islanders’ record in Brooklyn has been pretty good over the last five years. But playing the first round of the playoffs (which the Islanders won) at the Coliseum and the second round (which the Islanders lost) at Barclays left many feeling that choosing one or the other for future post season games made more sense. Between the smaller capacity, broadcasting inadequacies and lack of luxury boxes, few thought the Coliseum would win out in that scenario. It seems that it indeed has.
This also would mean that the team’s final games at Barclays Center will all be this month. March 3rd vs. Montreal, March 17th vs Calgary and March 22 vs. Carolina. After that, the Islanders’ jaunt to Brooklyn will be but a memory. But we’ll save that retrospective for another time.
The Islanders’ arena at Belmont Park is currently under construction and will be finished prior to the 2021-22 season. You can watch it being built right here.
No word yet on whether the announcement will be made before, during or after Butch Goring’s number retirement ceremony, which is also happening before the Bruins’ game. Let’s hope the Bruins will be so cowed by the pomp and circumstance of the moment that they’ll be too frightened to even play.
Update: It’s official now, thanks to a press conference carried by MSG Networks following the number retirement. Governor Cuomo spoke for a few minutes about how important it was to him and the team to get the Islanders back to Long Island, then announced that the NHL has given the okay to play all of the playoff games this season and all of next season at the Coliseum.
Announcement from Governor Cuomo: “The Islanders are going to be playing every home game next season (2020-21) here at the Coliseum and every home playoff game right here at the Coliseum.” pic.twitter.com/xMhebvzO1x— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 29, 2020
Cuomo said that the updates to the arena cost the state about $6 million, and passed muster enough for the NHL to give their approval.
NY Gov. Cuomo announcing what @randimarshall reported yesterday: #Isles will play all playoff games this season and all of 2020-21 season at the Coliseum.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 29, 2020
Says NY state invested $6m in improving the Coli to make it work.
Bettman said if #Isles make a deep playoff run temporary measures likely will be needed such as overflow media work areas and hospitality facilities in the parking lot.— Neil Best (@sportswatch) February 29, 2020
Here’s the official statement from the NHL:
Statement from Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding @NYIslanders home games at Nassau Coliseum at NYCB Live. pic.twitter.com/8Zg2r8EwYb— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 29, 2020
Cuomo was flanked by the Islanders’ legends, commissioner Bettman, owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, and it was clear that everyone was pretty excited by the news. We know a lot of fans are excited, too. Sounds like the current Islanders feel the same way.
#Isles Barry Trotz said having the team play at just the Coliseum until Belmont opens, rather than both at the Coli and Barclays, will make it "normal" for the organization. Says having two home rinks is "not normal."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 29, 2020
Here’s video of the press conference: