For the last four-plus decades, New York Islanders fans have called the Nassau Coliseum their second home. Dubbed with various monikers over its years of existence, “Fort Neverlose” has truly been resurrected during the Islanders’ final season in the Town of Hempstead.
Moving a little more than 20 miles west, the Islanders will open up the 2015-2016 NHL season in a state-of-the-art arena while still technically being on Long Island, but that is most definitely a consolation prize that no Islanders fan from Suffolk or Nassau County wants to hear about. With so much rich history, memories, and experiences formed at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, it will be harder for some to adapt to life without the Isles on Long Island than it will for others.
Home to one of the greatest dynasty teams over the last half-century, the Nassau Coliseum – and the fans that have made this plot of land the hallowed ground that it is – have both endured a good amount of ups and downs since 1972. Having Long Island’s only professional sports franchise leave Nassau County might not be a storyline that every hockey fan can relate to, but through the direction of David Wurtzel and narration of Tom LoFaso in the short film “Hockey Barn: Long Island,” one can surely understand what the Nassau Coliseum has meant – and continues to mean – to Islanders fans of most any age group.
Last Of A Dying Breed
Anyone that has visited the Nassau Coliseum can agree on one thing, and Tom LoFaso caught it beautifully when he said, “There’s not a bad seat in the house, you’re not a million miles away.”
Frequenting the Coliseum, and taking in various vantage points and sight-lines over that time, it’s impossible to argue with LoFaso’s assessment. Of course, for every fan that has enjoyed what the Nassau Coliseum has had to offer, there are probably countless fans that have recounted their own horror stories about the lackluster nature of the Isles’ arena – whether it be in regard to the arena’s shortcomings in amenities, aesthetics, or overall likability.
Regardless of all of the negative sentiments that have been attached to the Nassau Coliseum over the years and decades, there is no doubting the fact that the Coliseum is one of the last “barn” arenas that a hockey team still utilizes and calls their home.
From the ice surface to the ceiling, there might not be much about the Coliseum that screams modern-day to the average hockey fan, but there is a tradition that has transcended the decades and generations of Islanders fans – and that is one of support, through thick and through thin. Sure, attendance at Nassau Coliseum took a dramatic fall during the Isles’ rebuilding years, but LoFaso – and the entirety of the Blue and Orange Army – didn’t give up on their team, even if the results on the scoreboard or NHL standings weren’t pleasing.
Back in the 1980s, when the New York Islanders were the toast of New York City, the Coliseum probably stood for something different for the older generation of Isles fans. For a team that at one point won 19 straight playoff series, fans that were around in the 1980s were privy to a level of winning that the younger generation hasn’t been able to experience on a consistent enough basis.
However, winning hasn’t mean everything to a fan-base that has simply refused to give up on their team. Differing from the older generations in some ways, the younger generation of Islanders fans have rejuvenated the Coliseum in somewhat non-traditional methods. This isn’t to say that older fans have been alienated or excluded from the Nassau Coliseum and its current traditions, but the creation of the Blue and Orange Army – which faithfully occupies section 329 every home game – has given the Isles’ arena something that few other fan-bases of NHL teams can lay claim to.
Hearing the BOA’s chants throughout the game, one can feel the passion that this group has for their home team, and that is what has differentiated the Islanders’ fan-base from others over the last several years. Similar to CenturyLink Field – home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks – the Nassau Coliseum can widely be viewed as the New York Islanders’ “Seventh Man” – and anyone that has been to a packed house at the “Madhouse Off The Meadowbrook” can attest to the fact that the Coliseum has the potential to be one of the loudest – if not THE loudest – arenas in the NHL.
With the ceiling of the old barn being so low – as LoFaso mentioned – acoustics reverberate throughout Nassau Coliseum in grand fashion, and that could certainly be part of the reason of why it’s so hard to play against the Islanders when they’re at home and have their raucous crowd behind them every step of the way. In a way, the relationship between the Nassau Coliseum and Islanders fans can probably be viewed as a symbiotic one. At times beneficial and at times harmful, the Nassau Coliseum has put Islanders fans through a whirlwind of emotions over its four-plus decades of existence, which makes the move the Brooklyn all the more difficult to digest and accept.
A Bittersweet Symphony
For a team leaving its only known home, the last season in Hempstead has been a bittersweet one for the Islanders and their fan-base. With the bitter taste of bureaucratic red-tape still lingering in the mouths of many Isles fans, it’s hard to forget the fact that political positioning by individuals such as Kate Murray essentially put the brakes on a potential extended stay for the Isles in Nassau County. However, winning – and consistent winning – have made the last season at the Coliseum a sweeter one for Islanders fans.
Of course, the blow of the Islanders leaving to Brooklyn won’t be felt until the beginning of the ’15-’16 NHL season when the Isles move into the Barclays Center, but that seems to be the last thing on the mind of any Islanders fan at this point in time.
Watching “Hockey Barn: Long Island,” one can comprehend the emotions that Islanders fans have been going through during this last season. No longer will one be able to take a quick drive from the comforts of the Long Island suburbs to see their favorite hockey team, but that certainly hasn’t signified the end of fandom for some of the most dedicated supporters that the New York Islanders have seen in recent years.
Capturing such a range of emotions into a little bit more than five and a half minutes of video can be challenging for any editor, producer, or director, but this is where David Wurtzel’s short film succeeds. For anyone looking to understand what the Nassau Coliseum – and more importantly, the New York Islanders – have meant to Islanders fans, look no further than “Hockey Barn: Long Island” as Wurtzel and LoFaso take viewers on a genuine and emotionally-charged journey into the hear of Islanders Country.
But don’t take our word for it, check it out for yourself below:
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.