Islanders’ Temporary Home, Nassau Coliseum, Closes its Doors

Fort Neverlose is in danger of suffering the biggest loss in its history and it may not have anything to do with the New York Islanders. It was announced this week through multiple sources that NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, formerly the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, would be closing its doors as billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov “seeks investors to take over operations and pick up the remaining debt,” according to Bloomberg.

With live events canceled since March due to the pandemic, including hockey games and concerts, the arena has struggled to stay above water and has laid off arena staff. The Nassau Hub, the plan to develop the property around the Coliseum, has also been put on hold. But, according to officials, this situation may have happened no matter what.

“Realistically, this day was inevitable when the state decided to build a new arena at Belmont; the pandemic simply made the end arrive sooner than expected,” said Nassau County Legislature Majority Leader Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). “Long Island would never have been able to support two arenas within 15 miles of each other. 

From “NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum shutting down as operator seeks investors,” Newsday, 6/17/2020

This outlook isn’t shared by everyone though. In a statement from Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, the company still sees value in the property. “While we still believe in the enormous long term economic value of the Coliseum and the development of the surrounding land, we recognize that such value will be best realized by other parties.”

Homecoming Cut Short

When it was announced in January 2018 that the Islanders would be playing home games at the Coliseum the following season, fans were ecstatic. After three seasons at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Islanders were finally coming back home, if only for part of the time, as they waited for the arena in Belmont to be completed. The Islander faithful got even better news this past February as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would play any home playoff games on Long Island and be back at the Coliseum full-time for the 2020-21 season.

Their homecoming appears to be cut short on the heels of fans celebrating the end of Barclays this past March. (from ‘The Brooklyn era is over for the Islanders,’ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 03/19/2020)

Related: A Brief History of the Nassau Coliseum

With the NHL considering two hub cities for their return to play to complete the 2019-20 season, the Islanders’ last game at the Coliseum may have been in the midst of their losing streak as the season hit pause, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on March 7.

Back to Brooklyn

The situation on Hempsted Turnpike presents an issue for the Islanders and their fans. If the NHL allows fans to attend games for the 2020-21 season, they may be back crammed in trains and on platforms on the Long Island Rail Road on their way to Brooklyn, much to their chagrin. This departure from Cuomo’s announcement means the Islanders and the NHL have yet another wrinkle to iron out whether they finish the current season or not.

Barclays Center
Barclays Center (THW Archives)

However, the Islanders don’t have many options, which feels a lot like when Charles Wang decided to move the team to Brooklyn a half-decade ago just to keep the team in New York. While the alternative was Quebec or Kansas City, fans found plenty wrong in Brooklyn, and rightfully so. Packed trains and poor sightlines just scratch the surface of issues on Atlantic Avenue. Issues aside, fans may just be grateful enough to see hockey in-person next season to keep complaints to a minimum.

Related: Islanders Greatest Games at Barclays Center

The Islanders can’t seem to escape sagas surrounding their arenas, and for a suffering fan base with a history as tumultuous and aggravating as the Islanders has been over the last 25 years, this seems fitting. An arena filled with history and memories for generations of fans won’t get its (second) proper sendoff, leaving them without the opportunity to say goodbye. Instead, it appears The Barn will fizzle out and officially move into the history of the franchise.

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 Podcasts and on Twitter and Instagram @Nassaumenhockey.