Nassau Coliseum was home to all during its run: ‘Our dump’

It was goodbye on the best phrases. It was a farewell full of that means and thriller, an exit infused with pleasure. Every final drop was milked from the Old Barn, each emotion slapped across the rink and smashed into glass one final time. Nostalgia was credited with an help.

The Islanders’ remaining exodus from Nassau Coliseum may have come during all these years after they ranked final within the NHL in attendance. It may have include the dreaded transfer to Brooklyn. It may have come when the constructing was closed indefinitely final June or when the world was restricted to 10 % COVID-related capability this spring.

But greater than 4 hours earlier than 13,000 or so followers filed in Wednesday for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals — the Islanders’ most important home game in 37 years — an enthusiastic automotive horn screamed, “Let’s go Islanders!” sparking a sequence response within the parking zone. Various genres of music mingled. Flags proudly flew. Beer disappeared. Burgers had been flipped. Shirtless males stood beside freshly dry-cleaned jerseys. A curler hockey recreation befell beside a busted fence and overgrown weeds. Car trunks supplied the perfect seats earlier than the sport started.

The sprawling concrete­ was Long Island’s most stunning yard.

“It’s a community,” stated longtime tailgater Ed Strype. “It’s something we’ve grown up with, something that connects you with the people.”

They paved a parking zone and put up paradise.

The Nassau Coliseum during Game 6 of the Islanders sequence towards the Lightning.
Getty Images

Madison Square Garden held a monopoly. It was the Metropolitan space’s solely venue for A-list acts and sports activities’ greatest stars. The most populous suburban county within the United States needed extra.

When the Air Force closed its Mitchel Field base in 1961, Nassau County acquired a lot of the land. Funds for a glowing new area had been accepted in 1964. The Coliseum was to be a part of a large advanced, that includes a live performance corridor, library, theater, nice arts gallery and museum.

“He was very proud when they got the project,” stated architect Bruce David Becket, whose father, Welton, and his agency designed the Coliseum after beforehand designed the Capitol Records constructing and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. “He was very excited.”

The grand plans had been scrapped when Ralph G. Caso changed Eugene Nickerson as Nassau County Executive, leaving the huge lot with nothing however the $32 million, publicly funded Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

“You might say it belongs to the people,” Caso stated then. “It’s theirs.”

The folks had loads of parking, however no mass transit to Uniondale. It had a single concourse, mirroring site visitors on the neighboring Meadowbrook Parkway. It had unmatched sightlines, unobstructed views and inexpensive tickets.

What finally was mocked as a “mausoleum” was thought of cutting-edge, boasting the first-ever area scoreboard with instantaneous replay know-how.

“I don’t want television viewers to have something we don’t,” Caso stated.

The Coliseum turned massive league earlier than development was accomplished. In November 1971, New York was awarded a second NHL franchise, upsetting the upstart World Hockey Association’s New York Raiders, who had hoped to transfer into the Coliseum. The ABA’s New York Nets moved 4 miles from the Island Garden in West Hempstead, placing each of proprietor Roy Boe’s groups beneath the identical low roof.

“I remember hearing we were gonna have teams,” stated Baldwin native and longtime Islanders organist Paul Cartier. “How cool would that be?”

The scoreboard wasn’t put in. Sections of seats hadn’t been nailed down. Water leaked close to the home locker room. Yet the Coliseum was open for enterprise.

The comfortable launch got here on Feb. 11, 1972, with almost 8,000 folks — of roughly 15,000 capability — watching the Nets defeat the Pittsburgh Condors.

“Even with half the seats done, it was a major improvement over the Island Garden,” former Nets guard Bill Melchionni stated. “It was a legitimate first-class arena.”

And it had respectable first-class superstars. Future Hall of Famer Rick Barry led the Nets to the 1972 ABA Finals. Then got here The Doctor.

Dr. J
Julius Erving stands outdoors the Nassau Coliseum in 1967.
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

With Roosevelt native Julius Erving taking part in for the Nets, the Coliseum was the one place to constantly see the best icon of the not often televised league. Erving, whose high-flying strikes redefined basketball, captured three league MVPs and led the Nets to championships in 1974 and 1976. Five months after followers stormed the Coliseum flooring to have a good time a second title, Boe offered Dr. J to the 76ers — the Nets, following the NBA-ABA merger, owed $8 million complete to the Knicks and the league — and took the group to New Jersey in 1977.

“I always regret the fact that Long Island never got to see that team play in the NBA with Doc,” Melchionni stated. “When the leagues merged, the Knicks had been on the decline, and if we had continued to have the success we had within the NBA, I feel the scenario would have dramatically modified. You would’ve had all these children on Long Island drawn to the Nets. You see the Islanders now, the constructing’s packed, the Long Island folks help them and I feel the identical factor would’ve occurred if the Nets stayed there. We may’ve constructed an analogous basis.

“If Julius had stayed on Long Island, if Roy Boe had the financial resources, you’d probably still have the Nets there.”

NHL commissioner Clarence Campbell — together with 12,221 others — watched the Islanders’ home debut on Oct. 7, 1972, and declared the Coliseum “a magnificent place to watch hockey.” That trusted which group you had been watching.

In their inaugural season, the Islanders tied the league-record for fewest wins (12). The subsequent yr, they completed final within the East Division once more. Home video games towards the Rangers felt no totally different than being in Manhattan.

“The first couple years we really got booed in our own building,” stated Islanders legend Bob Nystrom, who signed his first contract within the Coliseum parking zone. “It was ’75 when things turned around, when we beat the Rangers [in the playoffs]. That was when it really came into existence as the home of the Islanders.”

Fort Neverlose was born. Its run because the world capital of hockey started with the Game 6 matinee of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final, which ended on Nystrom’s additional time aim. The Islanders clinched three of their 4 straight championships at home — en route to 19 straight playoff sequence wins — and made Hempstead Turnpike an annual parade route. The Coliseum ceiling turned outlined by its quite a few blue, orange and white banners, nonetheless seizing followers’ consideration earlier than they reached their seats.

Denis Potvin celebrates profitable the Stanley Cup with the Islanders in 1983.

“The fans really took us in,” Nystrom stated. “[Coach] Al Arbour said to us, ‘These guys pay your salary, so get out and get involved,’ and we really took that to heart. We were such a part of the community. It was absolutely incredible.”

The Islanders haven’t been again to the Stanley Cup Final since 1984. From 1993 to 2015, they didn’t win a playoff sequence. When they lastly superior, they had been taking part in in Brooklyn. When they received a first-round sequence two years in the past, the second spherical was shifted to Barclays Center as a result of the NHL didn’t think about the reduced-capacity Coliseum to be an “NHL major league facility.” When they reached their first Eastern Conference finals since 1993 final yr, they had been taking part in in an empty area in a Canadian bubble.

It made each second of this yr’s final, unlikely run far more significant. The followers remembered how nice it had as soon as been. They remembered how horrible it had been.

“It’s the same sound,” stated Strype, who attended two Cup-winning video games. “It’s been a rebirth.”

Billy Joel had to wait his flip. The Long Island demigod together with his title within the rafters didn’t headline his first hometown present till 1977. Every star needed to play suburbia.

Paul McCartney and Frank Sinatra took the stage. So did Johnny Cash, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, whose 1972 exhibits supplied tickets starting from $4.50 to $6.50.

Billy Joel
Billy Joel performs at renovated Nassau Coliseum.
Getty Images

“This is a great place and this is where the kids live,” Zeppelin supervisor Peter Grant stated then. “Shame there aren’t places like this in England.”

Elvis Presley performed to sellout crowds, however he missed his scheduled present on Aug. 22, 1977, having died six days earlier. Nearly 5,000 Elvis followers gathered within the parking zone on the date printed on the ticket (which turned a collector’s merchandise), holding a four-hour memorial service. The Grateful Dead obtained a tie-dyed banner within the rafters for enjoying essentially the most exhibits within the Coliseum — 41 earlier than Jerry Garcia’s demise — regardless of a years-long hiatus stemming from the band’s problem with police harassment of followers within the parking zone. In 1988, a rap ban was enacted on the area after stabbings and gang-related exercise at a number of exhibits resulted in quite a few accidents and one demise. In 1987, camped-out followers smashed doorways and home windows in the course of the night time, searching for Bon Jovi tickets.

It was a favourite of stay albums and TV specials, one in every of solely two American venues to host Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” tour. It was home to Hicksville’s “Piano Man.”

“When Billy Joel played there when I was 8, my dad ended up getting scalped tickets,” stated Debbie Gibson, a Merrick native, who stays the youngest artist to write, produce and carry out a No. 1 single. “It’s so funny, me being an artist now, ‘Oh my god, that’s sacrilegious,’ but when dad comes home with 11th row for Billy Joel at the Coliseum he’s a hero. I saw the Beach Boys there, Billy, many times, skating shows. It was not wasted on me how amazing it was to have it right in my backyard.”

It hosted a Richard Nixon reelection rally in 1972. It hosted the 1983 NHL All-Star Game and WrestleMania 2 in 1986. It welcomed Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus yearly till internet hosting the ultimate present of the 146-year run in 2017.

The Coliseum was home to all.

“There’s a romance for a lot of artists playing the Garden, but I learned through touring that the suburbs are where you find so many of the die-hard fans,” stated Gibson, who simply launched her first album of unique music (“The Body Remembers”) in 20 years. “There’s not a snobbery that goes along with the suburbs. It’s down home. I always felt that down home vibe in playing the Coliseum. I felt like I was amongst my people.”

The Coliseum was too small. Rivals had been constructing higher houses. It was time to depart. It was 1991.

“We can’t be left behind,” Islanders proprietor John Pickett stated then.

The crumbling, soiled, cramped eyesore was a hurdle to each free-agent signing. It lacked fashionable facilities. It was cited as “uninhabitable” in 1998 by the Islanders, who threatened to play home video games throughout the northeast earlier than being ordered again by a decide. It was the second-oldest NHL area in use. It made Kansas City a respectable risk to steal the group. It made a basketball-centric area in Brooklyn with melting ice appear to be the most suitable choice after proprietor Charles Wang’s $3.4 billion Lighthouse Project was rejected and funds for a brand new Coliseum had been defeated in a 2011 referendum. It was a “depressing place to play,” Sharks ahead Owen Nolan as soon as stated.

“They called it a dump,” Cartier stated. “But it was our dump.”

An indication outdoors the Coliseum in 1998
New York Post

Only after the Islanders left did the constructing obtain a $180 million renovation, a modest touch-up, which enabled the group to return in between marriages to Brooklyn and Belmont Park (UBS Arena). In the Islanders’ absence, the Coliseum will home the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide (lacrosse), following the failed footsteps of the New York Arrows and Express (soccer), New York Saints and Titans (lacrosse) and New York Sets/Apples (tennis).

The constructing’s recollections are framed within the concourse, jammed after the Game 6 season-saving additional time win and taking part in a once-familiar tune: “We want the Cup.” Hundreds surrounded co-owner Jon Ledecky in a spontaneous mosh pit. This, after numerous beers smashed and stained the ice, after a number of the loudest noises in Coliseum existence soared via the air.

“It was quiet for so long,” Cartier stated. “People hadn’t heard something like this in years. It gives you goose bumps.”

There was no rush to exit. Tomorrow couldn’t be higher.

“Listen, it’s a remarkable place and it’s quite a history,” Nystrom stated. “I hate to see it go, but time moves on.”

What higher method to say goodbye?

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