A Great Ole' Barn:
By Kerry Gwydir
(May 2) Archaic. Musty. Out-of-date.
Nassau Coliseum has been called many words in the last decade -- most
of which are not flattering.
But one thing is for certain. It's the center of Islanders Country
and during the playoff season, there was no place like home for the
Islanders. If there ever was a sense of home-ice advantage, Nassau
Coliseum and it's enthusiastic patrons showed the Toronto Maple Leafs
and the rest of the hockey world that the ole' barn is pretty awesome
Just ask Eric Cairns, who at the end of Game 6 against the Leafs
raised his right index finger to salute the Coliseum faithful.
"There's still a lot of magic left in this building," Cairns
said. "You may not have the 20,000 seats and it may be a little
cramped when you walk though the hallways, but this arena is special.
It rocks and shakes like no other in the league now that you don't
have the Chicago Stadiums around."
Said Adrian Aucoin: "I don't know what they made this building out
of. But, for some reason, the sounds from the fans resonate
throughout the entire building.
"It's been deafening at times this year. Opening night was the first
time you could tell that this building had an attitude about it. We
could hear the fans through the walls. The same was true in the
playoffs. This place was crazy."
Nassau Coliseum opened on May 29, 1972, built on the former Mitchel
Field Army-Air Force base at the cost of 32 million dollars. In those
days, that was quite a hefty sum for a building.
The Coliseum was the product of a person who is involved with the
Islanders today - Bridgeport Sound Tigers' owner Roy Boe, who was the
Isles' first owner. The Coliseum was constructed essentially because
local politicians had anticipated hockey's expansion and because of
Boe's purchases of two teams -- the Islanders and the American
Basketball Association's New York Nets.
Boe was one of Long Island's "power brokers" in the early 1970s. He
quickly became widely known in Long Island social and political
circles, spending then-unheard of sums -- as much as $100,000 -- to
sign blooming stars while rubbing elbows with local leaders, bankers
and government officials.
By the time the Islanders would take their first step onto Coliseum
ice in their inaugural season of 1972-73, the population of the area
was booming towards the three million mark.
The landscape of the New York metropolitan area was changing rapidly,
and many were heading east towards Long Island in those days.
Suburban life began to take its own identity in many ways.
Those on Long Island yearned for an identity of their own. Add the
Islanders and Nassau Coliseum and Long Islanders have given them that
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is nearly 30 years old now. It's
been host to a Stanley Cup Dynasty and some of the greatest moments
in hockey history, such as Bob Nystrom's Cup winner in 1980 to
incredible individual achievements such as Bryan Trottier's 500th NHL
goal, Mike Bossy's 50 goals in 50 games and numerous incredible
This season, the Islanders added a new chapter in the legacy of
Who will ever forget the night the Islanders clinched a playoff spot
on April 6 against the Capitals? How about the emotional Opening
Night festivities with all players from both the Islanders and
Detroit Red Wings joining members of the New York's Finest and
Bravest to hold Old Glory?
The Leafs-Islanders playoff series was a story unto itself. Game 6
against the Leafs was as electric as any in the Coliseum's existence.
Without Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson, the Islanders' "7th man"
permeated every inch of the Coliseum and inspired their club to a 5-3
victory and tie the series at three.
"Regardless of the outcome of the playoffs, that was a night I'll
never forget," said Cairns. "This game is about emotion as much as
all the drills and things you do to prepare for the game. The
building was full of it. It was for every game in the playoffs. The
Coliseum is our home. It's our fans' home.
"If there was any doubts about the passion there is in this building,
you should pop a tape in from any of our games this year. That will
answer any questions you have about whether this is a great hockey
arena and what type of fans we have."
For 16,234 die-hard Islanders fans in attendance and countless others
watching and listening to the epic battle of April 28 when the Isles
beat the Leafs in Game 6, it was a night that will never be forgotten
in the annals of the Coliseum's history.