It was the sort of day governors and other powerful people dream of, when almost no one complains about what they say or do.
Andrew M. Cuomo could not have had a better Saturday on Long Island if he had spent it rescuing kittens from trees or handing out cotton candy at a local park.
He announced before the Islanders’ 4-0 loss to the Bruins at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum that their ill-fated detour to Brooklyn will be over forever after a March 22 game against the Hurricanes at Barclays Center.
The news generally has gone over quite well among players, coaches, fans, journalists and random sane people across the region since Newsday broke the story on Friday.
It is fair to assume that this departure from Brooklyn will not lead to 60-plus years of nostalgic reverie the way the Dodgers’ did.
“It’s exciting,” Anders Lee said.
Cuomo, who was 14 when the Coliseum opened and lived in Queens at the time, said he was a regular for games and concerts from the start, and that he never was a fan of the Islanders’ western sojourn.
“When they moved to play in Brooklyn, I felt the air come out of the balloon,” he said. “It was not right. This is not what it is supposed to be.”
Initially, the NHL balked at moving the Islanders back to the Coliseum, part-time or full-time, because of its small size and antiquated infrastructure.
Cuomo said commissioner Gary Bettman insisted nothing could be done until improvements were made, and so they were in a renovation completed in 2017.
The Islanders played parts of their schedule in the old arena that past two seasons, but after March 22, every remaining home game this season and next will be at the Coliseum.
The plan is to move into a new arena at Belmont Park in the fall of 2021.
Bettman, who also attended the news conference, said the full-time return to the Coliseum would not have been possible if not for the fact that the new arena is rising.
It also is a result of what he described as Cuomo’s “persistence.” He stretched out the word for emphasis.
“He’s a New Yorker, and once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, and a New Yorker never forgets,” Cuomo said of Bettman, who grew up in Queens and Dix Hills.
While ditching Brooklyn is the best short-term option, it is not without flaws, especially if the Islanders make a deep playoff run this season or next.
The old arena is a logistical challenge for the NHL and its television partners. What will the league do if the Isles reach the conference finals or the Stanley Cup Final?
“Lou [Lamoriello] hates when I talk about that, but if it happens, we may have to erect some temporary facilities in the parking lot to accommodate the media and do certain VIP hospitality food options and rest room facilities,” Bettman said. “We’re mindful of the magnitude that our events can take on as the season progresses, and the Islanders are committed to doing what they have to do to make sure we have a tenable situation.”
There are some city-based fans who will miss Barclays’ mass transit options, but most fans prefer the Coliseum. All of the players love the decision, given that they live and practice on Long Island. Coach Barry Trotz said the new arrangement at last will be “normal.”
“It’s nice to have a solidified home,” Scott Mayfield said.
Said Lee, “This is our home. It’s been our home forever. We love playing here.”
The history was driven home by a gathering of early 1980s Islanders for Butch Goring’s number retirement. They went directly from that to the Cuomo news conference.
After going 2-0 in home playoff games at the Coliseum and 0-2 at Barclays last spring, the Islanders are living on the playoff edge, but at least now they know where they will play if they do make it.
“When the Islanders left, it hurt Long Islanders,” Cuomo said. “It hurt their sense of pride. It hurt their sense of regional identity. It hurt, and I heard about it. So bringing them back to Long Island was important.”