Benji Vogel, son of reader Meredith Vogel of Melville, poses...

Benji Vogel, son of reader Meredith Vogel of Melville, poses with Islanders mascot Sparky the Dragon this season at the Nassau Coliseum. Credit: Meredith Vogel

I grew up in Section 208, Row A.

That was the area of Nassau Coliseum where my dad and I had season tickets for Islanders games from the late 1980s until the birth of my son in October 2003.

I was too young to witness the Stanley Cup championship games from 1980-83, but I clearly remember the kids in my preschool class in Bellmore chanting, "Let's Go Islanders!" It sounded like a really good tune to me. I was a girlie girl who played with her Barbies -- while listening to announcers Jiggs McDonald and Eddie Westfall on Sports Channel.

I started going to games with my dad in 1984. We were part of large and loud crowds with players on the ice named Bossy, Trottier and Potvin. Sometimes my dad let me get a pretzel from the shopping carts outside. I would eat it as we listened to the postgame radio show on the way home.

I stood by my Islanders when they missed the playoffs in 1989, was part of the "New Decade, New Dream" when the Isles clinched a playoff berth in the last game of the 1990 season, and I had the best year of my hockey-fan life during the playoffs of 1993, when they beat Washington and Pittsburgh to reach the conference finals.

I wrote multiple book reports about Mike Bossy's autobiography, and made goalie Mark Fitzpatrick into a papier-mâché doll as my sixth-grade art project. I studied for high school exams at weeknight games, placing my books on the ledge in front of me, a perk of sitting in our section's first row.

I cried in my seat when the Rangers swept the playoff series of 1994, yet I kept returning for years after that, only to see a fisherman logo briefly take over our jerseys as the crowds around me dwindled.

I was there with ice packs the day I had all four wisdom teeth pulled, and even came straight off flights from LaGuardia Airport once or twice, having planned travel around the Islanders' schedule.

As I got older, I refused to date Rangers fans because I knew our personalities and beliefs would totally clash.

I wrote my college entrance essay about the Islanders and then chose to stay home to attend Hofstra University. Among other reasons, I didn't want to abandon my team.

I saved all of my ticket stubs and clipped Newsday articles and back covers for years, organizing them all in scrapbooks, which I am able to show to my son, now 11. Recently, I told him that when I was in seventh grade, my parents let me attend Islanders games at the Coliseum with my friends. My dad would drop us off and pick us up, which now, as a mom, sounds really scary. But the truth is, the Coliseum was a safe place, just like home.

My son will be in seventh grade next year, so at a recent game, he asked whether he would be allowed to go to games with just his friends.

I had to pause before responding. He will never be able to attend an Islanders game on his own at the Coliseum because when he is in seventh grade, the Coliseum will no longer be home.

When we both realized this, the conversation was abruptly over. Neither of us was ready to deal with it.

As the team fought for a playoff spot, I fought back tears all season each time Coldplay's "Fix You" was played to welcome the Islanders onto the ice.

"Tears stream, down your face, when you lose something you cannot replace . . . Lights will guide you home . . ."

Where is home? Brooklyn?

Things could be worse. Brooklyn isn't Kansas City. But it might as well be, because my Islanders are leaving -- and taking my childhood with them.

Reader Meredith Vogel lives in Melville.