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The Islanders want to keep winning. Nassau Coliseum already has.

Fans cheer in Game 6 of the second

Fans cheer in Game 6 of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Islanders and the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum on June 9. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Islanders’ quest for their first Stanley Cup since 1983 is an unresolved story, one that will play out for another week or two or three. But one part of the drama is settled already.

Nassau Coliseum has won its race against time, no matter when and under what circumstances the Islanders play their final game there.

It has been an unlikely comeback, dating back decades, especially since that day in the autumn of 2012 when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the team would move to Brooklyn in 2015.

No need to recount the twists and turns since then. You know the drill.

But think about what was required to get from there to Thursday night, when the Islanders play Game 3 of a Stanley Cup semifinal against the Lightning before their biggest home crowd in nearly 1 1/2 years.

They had to ditch an unhappy marriage with Brooklyn for good, the official word coming from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Feb. 29, 2020, 11 days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world.

Then they had to endure a detour to playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton while construction continued on UBS Arena after a brief COVID-19 pause.

Then they had to reach the 2021 playoffs, lest their final game at the Coliseum be played before a 10% capacity smattering of fans.

Then they had to keep winning, eliminating the Penguins and Bruins as capacity rose to 6,800, then 9,000, then 12,000 and finally nearly 13,000 — close to a full house.

It has been a group effort, starting with the scientists who came up with a vaccine, the government officials who relaxed attendance restrictions, the Islanders who did their job on the ice and most of all Islanders fans.

Given the OK to show up, they did, and they have created an atmosphere that will echo for generations when the team moves to its new arena at Belmont Park.

It is possible the scheduled completion of UBS Arena in November will require yet another brief stop in Uniondale in October, but that is fine.

Again: The arena story line already has a happy ending, no matter what happens from here.

Coach Barry Trotz and his players have been good sports in answering endless questions from reporters about what the arena and Islanders fans mean to them.

"It’s been really special," Ryan Pulock said on Wednesday. "Obviously, the noise that they bring every night inside the building is the loudest in the league. We love feeding off that.

"When you hear that it gives you an extra burst of energy. They’ve helped us get to this point where we are."

That line of inquiry only will ramp up if the Islanders reach the Stanley Cup Final and face a new round of international media attention.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper even got into the spirit when asked about the Coliseum this week, recalling happy memories of attending games there when he was a Hofstra student and lacrosse player.

There is no equivalent to the Old Barn among the current NHL final four's rinks. The Montreal Forum closed in 1996.

All the sentiments about the antiquated building have seemed sincere, but let’s be real here: These guys primarily are focused on winning hockey games at this stage — be they at the Coliseum, on the road, on a frozen pond or on Mars.

The Coliseum narrative is in the background, something mostly for fans and journalists to revel in.

But that is as it should be. We all have our jobs to do. Fans cheer. Writers write. Players play.

And then there is the Coliseum itself, which has gotten more attention across North America over these past few weeks than at any time since the early 1980s.

It has done its job, better than anyone could have imagined when this saga began.

The Islanders want to keep winning. Their home rink already has.

New York Sports