Wednesday, June 23, 2021, is a day that will live on forever in the hearts and minds of New York Islanders fans. On the verge of elimination at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders rallied back to tie the contest at 2-2 and force overtime. The game ended just 1:07 into the extra session when Anthony Beauvillier cemented his place in history by scoring the last goal in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
After picking off a pass from Blake Coleman, Beauvillier skated across the slot and wristed home the game-winner, sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy. With that goal, the Islanders became the first team in NHL history to win the final game in a building set to close, in the third round of the playoffs, in overtime.
Extra Time for Memories
Eighteen franchises advanced to the playoffs in the final year of their respective arenas, with two teams — the 1919 Montreal Canadiens and 1923 Ottawa Senators — winning the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens beat the Senators in five games, with Montreal winning the last game of the series (4-1) on March 6, 1919, at Jubliee Arena. It turned out to be the final game at the arena complex because a fire destroyed the building a month later on April 23, forcing the Habs to move to Mount Royal Arena. The Senators won the Stanley Cup during the 1923 season, winning the first game of the two-game set at The Arena on March 7, 1923, before moving to the Ottawa Auditorium.
The Islander’s recent sendoff win put them on a shortlist of just five teams who won their final playoff game at home alongside the 1983 Calgary Flames (Stampede Corral), 1995 Quebec Nordiques (Quebec Coliseum), 1919 Canadiens, and 1923 Senators. The Flames lost their playoff matchup (4-1) to the Edmonton Oilers that season but won the last game at the Corral 6-5 to avoid a sweep. The Nordiques forced a game six in their series against the New York Rangers with a 4-2 victory in what turned out to be the last game at the Coliseum.
The Colorado Avalanche lost 4-1 in Game 7 of their 1999 Western Conference Final matchup against the Dallas Stars, which became the last NHL game played at McNichols Sports Arena. The Avs were the only team, until the 2021 Islanders, to play in the third round of the playoffs in their building’s final season. (The 1919 Canadiens and 1923 Senators don’t factor into this list because the teams only played one series for the championship.)
Four teams have advanced to the second round and lost their final home game, the 2010 Pittsburgh Penguins (Mellon Arena), 2007 New Jersey Devils (Brendan Byrne Arena), 2001 Stars (Reunion Arena), and the 1995 Vancouver Canucks (Pacific Coliseum).
Ten teams qualified for the playoffs in their final seasons in now-defunct arenas; however, only the 1995 Nordiques managed to secure a victory in their last home game. The Toronto Maple Leafs tied their only home playoff contest (3-3) in their 1931 playoff matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks before elimination in the next game.
The 1999 Carolina Hurricanes (Greensboro Coliseum) and 1996 Philadelphia Flyers (The Spectrum) lost their final home games in double overtime, while the original Winnipeg Jets lost their last game at Winnipeg Arena in 1996. The Lightning lost in the Thunderdome in 1996, and the Boston Bruins closed the iconic Boston Garden with a loss in 1995. The Blackhawks lost in Chicago Stadium in 1994, the St. Louis Blues at St. Louis Arena in 1994, and the Atlanta Flames in Omni Coliseum in 1980.
Buildings Whose Legacies Ended with a Dud
Islanders fans watched their beloved team leave Long Island for Brooklyn in 2015. The Barclays Center may have been a smart move at the time; however, it was a short-lived solution with more complications than anyone could have imagined. It is safe to say that the temporary relocation had few positives, one of them, the eventual deal for a new arena deal at Belmont Park.
When we look back at the other 23 buildings that no longer host NHL games, the Islanders were the latest team to drop their final regular-season home game before moving. The Canadiens ended the Barclays Center experiment with a 6-2 win on March 3, 2020.
The loss marked the 13th time a home team lost in this situation. Teams who dropped games include the 2011 Atlanta Thrashers (Phillips Arena), 2003 Phoenix Coyotes (America West Arena), and 1999 Los Angeles Kings (The Forum). The 1999 Maple Leafs closed out the historic Maple Leaf Gardens with a loss, along with the 1997 Washington Capitals (Capital Center), 1995 Ottawa Senators (Ottawa Civic Center), and 1993 Minnesota North Stars (Met Center). The 1993 Lightning left their first home, the Expo Center, with a loss, while the 1993 San Jose Sharks (Cow Palace), 1980 Kansas City Scouts (Kemper Arena), 1932 Chicago Blackhawks (Chicago Coliseum), and the 1927 Detroit Red Wings (Border Cities Arena) did the same.
Only six teams won their final home games, 2017 Red Wings (Joe Louis Arena), 2016 Oilers (Rexall Place), 1997 Hartford Whalers (Hartford Civic Center), 1996 Buffalo Sabres (Memorial Auditorium), 1996 Canadiens (Montreal Forum), 1982 Colorado Rockies (McNichols Sports Arena), and the 1926 Canadiens (Mount Royal Arena).
Defunct Teams Count Too
Some people may look at these lists and wonder where teams like the California Golden Seals, Brooklyn Americans, and Montreal Maroons are. The focus of this article is about the last games played in buildings, not about teams who folded for various reasons; however, here are the details for those who were curious.
The Americans won their last game at Madison Square Garden (III) on March 15, 1942. The Cleveland Barons loss their final home game at Richfield Coliseum on April 9, 1978. Before they moved to Ohio in 1976, they played at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena as the Golden Seals. Their last game in the Bay Area was a win on April 4, 1976. The Quebec Athletic Club secured a win in their final game in Quebec Arena on March 10, 1920. As the Hamilton Tigers, the franchise ended their run in the Barton Street Arena with a loss on March 7, 1925.
The Philadelphia Quakers lost their final home game at Philadelphia Arena on March 17, 1931, almost one year from their last home loss as the Pittsburgh Pirates at Duquesne Gardens on March 18, 1930. The Montreal Maroons ended their run at the Montreal Forum on March 17, 1938, with a loss, and the Montreal Wanderers lost their final home game at the Montreal Arena on Dec. 26, 1917. (The team folded in January after a fire destroyed the building.)
Last but not least, the original Senators played in three different facilities, posting a 2-1 record when departing for another complex. They relocated to St. Louis for the 1934-35 season and lost their final game at the Ottawa Auditorium on March 15, 1934. Then after one season in the United States, the team folded but won their last home game on March 12, 1935.
End of an Era
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum may have closed its doors forever when the Islanders lost Game 7; however, fans will have plenty of opportunities to cherish the building’s memories forever. Pictures and videos will never showcase the significance of specific moments in Coliseum history. To fully appreciate history as it unfolds, one has to be there to witness it.
When UBS Arena opens in the fall, the Islanders’ successes will be on full display in the rafters, dressing room, and main concourse. Somewhere in the complex, there should be a photo of Beauvillier’s overtime winner for fans to reminisce. Not only was it a special moment in Islanders’ history, but it was also a unique moment in NHL history.
Want more Islanders content? Check out the Nassaumen Hockey Podcast, hosted by The Hockey Writers authors James Nichols and Jon Zella. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google
Ryan Gagne is one of the newest members of The Hockey Writers, covering the New York Islanders. He grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire, where he idolized the Boston Bruins. Before moving to Canada in 2008, he was the equipment manager for his high school varsity hockey team and a sports journalist for the local newspapers. Ryan has been active in the hockey community, whether coaching, officiating, instructing, or playing. He is the ultimate rink rat with 19 years of experience making ice and driving the Zamboni. An avid fantasy sports player, Ryan created a blog, Keeping the Stats, where he dissects his teams and brags about his 2020 fantasy football championship. Outside of hockey, his life revolves around the New York Yankees, much to his wife’s chagrin.