Start of a Long Goodbye

New York Islanders prepare to leave Nassau Coliseum.

(from The New York Times, February 17, 2013) The New York Islanders have played hockey at Nassau Coliseum since the arena’s construction in 1972. The Coliseum opened when many of the older arenas including Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, and the Olympia in Detroit were still in use. While Madison Square Garden is undergoing a billion-dollar renovation, the Coliseum remains outdated.

After 41 years the Islanders announced in October they would be relocating to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Compared with 29 other rinks in the N.H.L. (National Hockey League) the Coliseum’s amenities have become dated.  It has only 32 luxury suites and the street-level concourse is not conducive to large crowds. Fans and players alike admit they cannot forget the history and atmosphere surrounding the rink.

In the 1980s the Islanders won 4 straight Stanley Cups and competed in 19 straight playoffs, no team since has repeated this feat. The Islanders last won a series playoff in 1993 and are ranked 29th in average attendance this season. Joanne Holewa, the manager of the hockey administration, believes the move to Brooklyn will be good for everyone. Plans to refurbish or rebuild the arena on Long Island failed and the team needs a more modern facility. The Barclays Center is located close to subway and rail stations making it easier for fans to attend.

Veteran Islanders fans hope the new venue will retain the intimacy offered by the Coliseum. Tom Renney, Associate Head Coach for the Detroit Red Wings, says of the Coliseum, “I don’t know of a more player-fan interactive venue in the league.” The Islanders’ players see the transition to a new facility as an opportunity to remember the past and create a new future. Butch Goring, once the center for the Islanders, is excited the team will be staying in the New York area, but can’t imagine what leaving the Coliseum will be like. The Islanders are set to transition to Barclays Center in the 2015-16 season.