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Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

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“Coliseum” is a fitting name for the New York Islanders’ old stomping grounds, more familiar to hockey fans as New York Islanders Nassau Coliseum. Back in the day, the Coliseum was the center of the Roman Empire, and back in the 1970s and ’80s, the Islanders had an empire of their own, winning four Stanley Cups in a row while tenants of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This classic stadium may not have been the fanciest or best-maintained NHL arena in the world, but it hosted arguably one of the best hockey teams in the world — and gave Islanders fans memories they will never forget.

Islanders Nassau Coliseum — History

Located in Uniondale, New York, the Coliseum opened in 1972. The Islanders played there until 2015 and since have returned to play a small number of home games. The arena was also home to the New York Nets, another legendary team featuring the incredible — and in his day incomparable — Julius Erving. While the arena also hosted tennis matches and many other sporting events (including concerts featuring the likes of Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen), any hockey fan will tell you the real action at the Coliseum took place when the mighty Islanders took the ice.

Despite some opposition from the New York Rangers, the NHL awarded Long Island with a franchise in 1972, and the Islanders were born. In their first season at the Coliseum, the team posted an historically awful 12-60-6 record, but things would get better. Much better. By the late 1970s, thanks to solid draft picks such as Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy, and behind the expert coaching of Al Arbour, the Islanders got good — very good:

  • In 1979-80, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 and winning the last game at Islanders Nassau Coliseum.
  • In 1980-81, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup, beating the Minnesota North Stars 4-1, and again winning the final game at the Coliseum.
  • In 1981-82, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup again, this time sweeping the Vancouver Canucks 4-0. (The only downside was the final game was played in Vancouver.)
  • In 1982-83, the Islanders won their fourth straight Stanley Cup, knocking off the Edmonton Oilers 4-0, and winning the final game of the series at home.

Between 1980 and 1984, the Islanders won 19 playoff series in a row. In 1981, the Isles won 15 straight games to set an NHL record, and that same year recorded a 118-point regular season. Even after the Stanley Cup run, the Islanders played strong hockey at the Coliseum throughout the ’80s, despite being overshadowed by their successor dynasty, the Oilers.

Overall, the Islanders have played 1,674 games at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, with a record of 837-611-169-57 (.568 winning percentage).

By the 2000s, Nassau Coliseum, small to begin with sub-14,000 hockey seating capacity, was badly in need of renovation. With municipal leaders unable to come up with the right renovation plan and/or financing, the Islanders announced in 2012 that it would move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2016.

Renovations were finally made to the Coliseum in 2016, however, and the Islanders have played a small number of games at their old venue since (20 games are slated there for the 2018-19 season). So far, the fan response has been terrific, with the Islanders drawing better crowds at their old home than at Barclays. Also helping attendance is, no doubt, a resurgent Islanders team under recently hired head coach Barry Trotz. No matter where the Islanders will be playing, odds are strong they will bring excitement to the game.

(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)