Posts Tagged ‘Nassau Coliseum’

New York Islanders Moving to Brooklyn: A Bittersweet Day for Islander Fans

In Life, Sports on October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

The New York Islanders have been part of the landscape of Long Island for my entire life.  And though there had been rumors of their departure from Long Island floating around for several years, it really hit home yesterday when the Islanders announced that they would be moving to Brooklyn once their Nassau Coliseum lease expires at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

A variety of emotions hit me when the announcement was made:  shock, sadness and anger at first, but most of all, I was relieved.

Even though every Islander fan knew that this day could come, it was still shocking when the formal announcement was made.  Not so much that the team was moving to Brooklyn, but rather that they were able to keep it under wraps until a few hours before the press conference was to take place at the Barclays Center.

The announcement saddened me for nostalgic reasons.  Words cannot describe what it was like to be a kid growing up on Long Island during the Islanders’ dynasty years.  I can’t say what it was like for the rest of the country, but on Long Island, hockey was very important.  Nearly everyone that I knew was either an Islander or Ranger fan, and the heated rivalry created intense moments between friends.

My father was never much of a hockey fan, so we didn’t go to a lot of games, but I went to some with friends.  Since I became a parent, I have taken my son to a number of games at the Nassau Coliseum, a place that holds many memories for me beyond the Islanders (concerts, the circus, etc.).

The fact that the Islanders will no longer call the Coliseum home in a few years makes me angry, but not at owner, Charles Wang.  I am angry that Mr. Wang did everything possible to work with Nassau County to get a new arena built inside of a complex that would have been called The Lighthouse Project, a place that would have benefitted the Islanders and Long Island alike, but it was stalled in its tracks by short-sighted, power-happy politicians.

As a lifelong Islander fan, I cannot say that I am happy about the move the Brooklyn, but I am relieved, and grateful to Charles Wang for keeping the Islanders local.

Although it has been a long time since the Islanders were truly relevant in hockey terms, it is a team steeped in tradition, and that tradition will now be preserved for many years to come (albeit in Brooklyn rather than on Long Island).

The banners that hang from the rafters of the aging Coliseum will now hang from the rafters of a state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn.  The name of the team and the logo will remain the same, which is what should be most important to Islander fans, and for that matter, Ranger fans as well.  Had the Islanders moved to Kansas City (as rumored), the name of the team surely would have been changed, and the history of this once-great franchise would have been nothing more than a memory.  The heated cross-town rivalry with the Rangers would have been all but eliminated.

Ultimately, this move is likely to make the Islanders a more competitive team with a home-ice advantage that they haven’t had in years.  While some are concerned about the seating capacity of the new arena, the fact of the matter is that the Islanders wouldn’t have even filled the smaller venue on most nights in recent years.

The makeup of the fan base will surely change with this move.  No longer will suburban families be able to come home from work and take their kids to a midweek game.  While that is unfortunate for those who supported the team for many years, the reality is that families were not filling the arena on a nightly basis.  Having gone to a number of midweek games myself, I can attest to the fact that there were nights when the near-silent, half-filled arena had no energy whatsoever.

As a lifelong Islander fan it pains me to say it, but the energy that Ranger fans create for their team is what the Islanders can hope for now that they will be in a smaller arena filled with fans.

Thankfully, the new arena is very easy to get to with public transportation, so Islander fans will still be able to watch their team play, though not as often as they do now.

Given the choice between having the Islanders move to Brooklyn or some other part of the country, it’s clear that this announcement, while bittersweet, was clearly the best that any Islander fan could have hoped for under the circumstances.

The Memories Remain

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on April 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

The sun rose this morning at 7:03am.  Normally, the exact time of the sunrise on any given day is pretty insignificant.  But today was different.  At sunrise today, Texas Stadium (the former home of the Dallas Cowboys) was imploded.  And though I have never attended a game there, I have been a Cowboys fan since I was a kid, and the stadium has always held special meaning to me.

In 1995, I attended a tradeshow in Dallas.  It was the only time that I had been in the area before moving here last summer.  Words can’t describe the feeling that I had as I saw Texas Stadium as my plane approached the airport just a few miles away.  Something that had always seemed larger than life to me finally seemed real.

When I was done working, I took a taxi to Texas Stadium to take a tour.  It was probably the best $5 that I have ever spent.  The Cowboys were dominant at the time, in the midst of their Super Bowl runs.  Even though I was in the stadium during the off-season, it still was an incredible feeling.  I can still remember running patterns on the field, and being surprised to see the pitch on the 50-yard line to allow water to drain.  On television, it always seemed perfectly flat.  With a magic marker, I signed my name on one of the goal posts (although I’m not sure that we were actually allowed to do so).  And then came the highlight of the tour…the Cowboys locker room.  It was before we all carried cell phones everywhere, so I called my girlfriend (now my wife) from the pay phone in the locker room.  When she wasn’t there to answer, I called my mother and told her where I was.  It was surreal, and one of the coolest experiences that I’ve ever had.

As I laid in bed with my son watching the implosion of Texas Stadium live on TV, the memories of that day came rushing back.  Even though I didn’t have many memories of the stadium, it was still sad to watch it disappear before my eyes.  Thankfully, we’ve driven past it several times since arriving in Texas, so at least my son got to see it (albeit from the car on the highway).  Watching the replay of it with my wife brought back an entirely different kind of memory.

The news kept showing the implosion from different vantage points.  From every angle,  the only thing that remained were some beams and a cloud of dust…reminiscent of what we saw from our Jersey City condo on the water on 9/11.  On that day, we watched the towers crumble before our eyes, and the dust cloud hovered for months afterwards.  Up until today, the only times that I have relived that moment is on each anniversary of 9/11…when it all comes rushing back.  Of course, the sadness of my 9/11 memories is profound, while the sadness of seeing a stadium imploded is purely nostalgic.

While seeing Texas Stadium crumble to the ground was not easy, it was nothing compared to the feeling that I had when I found out that Shea Stadium was being torn down to make room for Citi Field.  Out of all of the venues in sports, Shea Stadium is the one that means the most to me.  It is the place that I would go to ballgames with my family.  It is the only place that I ever saw a ballgame with my dad before he passed away.  It is where my son and I went to our first ballgame together.  It is the place where I saw my first concert ever (The Who’s “First” Farewell Tour in 1982).  It is a place that always has been, and always will be, a part of me.

When Billy Joel announced that he was going to be playing the final concert ever at Shea Stadium, I knew that I had to be there.  Amazingly, I had gone all of those years without seeing him live for one reason or another.  But going to see him for the first time was only part of it.  Being there for the last concert ever was the main reason.  I probably would have gone even if was an artist that wasn’t one of my favorites.  And though it might seem a bit ridiculous, I only wanted to go on the final night.

It turned out to be one of the best concerts that I have ever seen, with some amazing guest performances.  The highlights for me being Paul McCartney (who was incredible), and Roger Daltrey (because my first concert ever was The Who at Shea).  As my wife and I watched the show, I know that she was totally wrapped up in the music.  I loved the music, but also found myself getting lost in the nostalgia of it all several times throughout the performance.  I distinctly remember looking up at the sky and thinking about my dad…hoping that he was there with me one last time at Shea.

My son and I went to a game at Citi Field when it opened.  Part of me didn’t want to like the stadium because it replaced Shea Stadium.  But it didn’t take long to let those feelings go.  As much as I loved Shea Stadium, it didn’t compare to the Citi Field experience.  And though I never attended a game at Texas Stadium, I did take my son to the first game ever at the new Cowboys Stadium (pre-season vs. the Titans).  The experience was like no other stadium experience that I’ve ever had, so I have to imagine that it made the Texas Stadium experience pale by comparison.

The nostalgia in me makes the tearing down of old stadiums and arenas a bit forlorn.  In all likelihood, the Nassau Coliseum will be torn down at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Like Shea Stadium, the Coliseum also holds a lot of great memories for me…hockey games with my son and more concerts than I can even recall.  In fact, whenever I attend Islander games with my son, I habitually park in the same area that I did when I went to concerts in high school, and we would all tailgate before the show.

As the saying goes…“all good things must come to an end.” Having been to newer stadiums and arenas, I understand that older stadiums and arenas eventually become obsolete.  While the buildings may no longer exist, the history that was made in each place will always exist, and for those that were a part of it, the memories will always remain.

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