Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Come Saturday night, when they take the ice against the Devils for their first post-lockout game, it will be much more real and mark the beginning of what figures to be an awkward transition period.
No one knows quite what to expect, including the people who will bring the games to you on television between now and 2015.
"I am intrigued," MSG play-by-play man Howie Rose said of the vibe, "but I have no strong opinion because there is absolutely no precedent for this."
Well, yes and no. The Islanders will not be the first Long Island pro sports team to move within the metropolitan area (see Nets, 1977), and they won't be the first NHL team to relocate within the area (see Devils, 2007).
But for many fans, downtown Brooklyn might as well be downtown Bratislava, the recent professional home of defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. (That's another story entirely.)
Back to Uniondale: Two much-liked former Islanders will be in the house Saturday analyzing the opener -- Glenn Resch on the Devils' telecast and Butch Goring on the Islanders'. Each has adopted a mostly pragmatic approach to the looming end of the Nassau Coliseum era.
"It makes every game there more sentimental for me," Resch said. "Every time I come there, I'll probably think of something different that happened back in the day."
Still, Resch said, he believes the fan base he recalled being "rabid, dedicated, loyal" will follow the team west if it wins consistently.
"When the Devils moved from the Meadowlands to Newark, everyone said, 'Oh, geez, it's going to be disastrous,' " Resch said. "You know what? When they're winning, that place is jammed."
Goring said the reaction might have been more negative had the season started on time, but given the long wait, he believes most fans will be happy merely to have the game back.
"I don't think [the move] is going to be on their minds at this time," he said.
But it might be if the team falters.
"As you know," Goring said, "it doesn't matter what organization you are with; if things go bad, then people start talking about a lot of other stuff."
For now, Rose and Goring said the move is unlikely to be a significant subject on game telecasts.
"I don't know that it's relevant until it becomes relevant," Rose said. "If the Zamboni breaks or the roof leaks, all bets are off if some announcer starts bellyaching, 'Oh, man, I can't wait to get out of this building.'
"But I'm very sensitive to the fact there are a lot of people who, for all its warts, don't want to leave that building. I strongly, adamantly reject the notion the Islanders' fan base from the '80s is gone. They're not gone, they're dormant."
The Islanders are dormant as a national attraction; they have only two games scheduled for NBC Sports Network. But NBC analyst Pierre McGuire said the young talent base bodes well, as does the rivalry dynamics of the Brooklyn move.
"If you look at what's happened with the Knicks and Nets, it's awesome, and I think the same thing can happen with the Rangers and Islanders," he said.
NBC analyst and former Ranger Ed Olczyk would like to see the pending "business move" translate onto the ice. "Hopefully it will help the Islanders in the pocketbook, to be able to spend more money and be able to bring in better players," he said.
All that is down the road. In the meantime the next two years could be mighty strange for many players and fans who recall better days.
"The world changes so quickly now, traditions change," Resch said. "It is what it is, in life and sports. But it will still be sad."