Islanders fans anticipate the best of both worlds when the team returns on Saturday night to NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum: The atmosphere of the old barn along with modern, post-renovation comforts.
The people behind the television presentation of the game against the Blue Jackets on MSG Plus feel similarly.
For one thing, the energetic vibe will make for a better backdrop than in Brooklyn.
“As good as Barclays is for television — and it’s a very good television facility — that’s probably the one element that’s been lacking, except for some of the playoff games,” said Bob de Poto, MSG Networks’ senior coordinating producer.
For another, the new-look Coliseum will make possible a new look on television. The lighting is better and for the first time, there is a permanent reverse-angle camera position on the side of the rink behind the team benches.
And this: You might not have noticed in the decades before the Islanders left Uniondale in 2015, but study old video and you will see that the main game camera is positioned on a blue line, not at center ice. Now it is.
“It's subtle, but a major improvement,” said de Poto, who with MSG colleagues has been working with the arena, Islanders and NHL for months on improving the Coliseum’s TV infrastructure. “It’s been a great collaborative process to come up with this final plan.”
De Poto said Saturday’s regular-season return should provide “the best television that’s ever been done out of the Nassau Coliseum . . . That’s what’s got me excited about coming here.”
Well, that’s not all. Just like for fans and players, the television crew feels the return to Long Island viscerally.
“I think first and foremost as a former player thinking back to my days in the ‘80s, I have a special feeling for that particular place,” said Butch Goring, a former player and coach and current TV analyst. “I’m excited about that . . . It’s obviously home for me.”
Goring said he attended the Elton John concert at the arena in October and found that it still looked familiar. But attending a regular-season hockey game there will be even better.
“When you walk into the Coliseum, for me, you know what it represents,” he said. ”It’s the Islanders and all the success that the Islanders had. So there’s a good feeling about going into that building.
“I enjoy seeing all the fans in the parking lot and they’ve got their grills out and their beers and the weather is good and they’re having a good time before the game even starts. That’s part of what the Islanders are . . . They’re home.”
De Poto said longtime statistician Eric Hornick recently emailed him one line, reading, “Is this really happening?”
Said de Poto, “I think that’s the feeling. Walking in here with a big smile on our faces. There is a big emotional component to this for the fans, and even for me as a TV professional.”
De Poto has been overseeing Islanders productions since 1988. Goring joined the team in 1980. For others, this will be new. Play-by-play man Brendan Burke joined the crew after the Islanders’ move to Brooklyn.
De Poto, an Islanders fan long before his professional association with them, recalled being in the office on Thursday and telling people he would not be in Friday because of setup work at the Coliseum.
“I couldn’t believe the words as they were coming out of my mouth,” he said.
Saturday, it will be showtime.