Last week, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, Bruce Ratner, was selected as the winning bidder for a much needed renovation for Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In his proposal, the $229 million plan would revamp the Coliseum, the area surrounding it, and also allow the Islanders to play six games in the 41 year old arena.
As we’ve seen countless times already with any hockey news during the summer months, this announcement was no different. Immediately following the 11:30AM press conference, social media networks exploded as Islanders fans rejoiced in the news that Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman and New York Rangers owner James Dolan did not come away with the bid. Many fans of the Isles saw this as a big win. The Rangers owners wouldn’t be taking over our holy grounds and fans can still see their boys play in their current home, even if it’s just for six games. But the joyous news for Isles fans also brought vocal outrage and frustration. The twitterverse filled with a collective “why couldn’t this have been solved a couple years earlier?” A valid question among fans who have rode a Nassau County political roller coaster for much longer than intended, and more importantly, are soon losing their team to a borough 45 minutes west (of course, without taking Long Island traffic into consideration).
At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, the Islanders will officially be moving out. It’s a narrative we’ve gone over and over and read about tirelessly since the October 2012 announcement. At best, we get two more seasons out of the old barn before the team packs their bags for the move to Brooklyn. As most moves go, it usually comes as bittersweet. Leaving what is known and loved to move to a new, unfamiliar home. It wasn’t the ideal outcome, but it’s a move the New York Islanders franchise is ready for, and its fans should be ready for as well.
The move to Brooklyn is one of the final pieces of the ongoing rebuild puzzle. The Islanders have been at the butt-end of jokes for far too long. A new building, buying out ludicrous contracts, and a solid 2013 campaign capped off by a strong return to the playoffs, it’s time to look to the future, not the past. This also means that games need to played in the new home, not the old one. Bouncing between two arenas, even if they’re just preseason games, is one of the stranger moves the team can make. You wouldn’t go back to your old house for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, and the Islanders shouldn’t go back to Uniondale for the memories.
I love the Coliseum, you love the Coliseum, and every Islanders fan loves the Coliseum. Fans across the League don’t understand why. They see the second oldest building in the League that for many games, would be filled with an uncomfortable ratio of road fans to Islander fans. Not us. We see the building where three of four Stanley Cups were raised. A dynasty was born. The place where you thought the roof was literally going to blow while waiting for our boys in blue and orange to hit the ice during their return to the playoffs. But as much as we all may love it, we must accept that times are changing and it won’t be our home come 2015-16.
We also know our time is limited in Uniondale. Most of us can’t wait until October to get here, let alone two years from now. The Islanders and their fans should be focusing on the now, but when the time does come, should continue to live in the present, not the past. Even just six games a year is too much. The locker room wouldn’t be theirs anymore. It’d be like staying in a hotel. It’s yours for the night, but that’s about it. Bouncing between two arenas wouldn’t benefit the team or their image one bit, and need to make a point that Brooklyn is their new town for good.
While the clock continues to tick toward the fateful departure, let’s enjoy it while we can. A couple more playoff runs and maybe even a Cup, would be a great way to say a final goodbye to the home we’ve grown to love. It may be considered a dump to most fans throughout the League, but it’s our dump.