For three decades, Alex Lanzman would make his pilgrimage to Nassau Coliseum -- an hour and 40 minutes, if he was lucky and the Belt Parkway was cooperating.
On Friday, he packed the family in the car and was huddled with the other early fans under the Barclays Center awning within 25 minutes. A brand new partial season-ticket holder, Lanzman was home, and the Islanders were, too.
"I walked down Fifth Avenue, and all the bars, all you see are the jerseys," said Lanzman, 49, who lives in Brooklyn. "It's going to be very, very good establishing and adding to the fan base because obviously, I'm from Brooklyn and I know other Brooklyn diehards going back 3 1/2 decades . . . In a selfish way, I was really looking forward to this."
Long Islanders have been less happy with the move, but for opening night, there was nary an ounce of negativity. Yes, it was raining, but fans chanted in the rain. When it was time for security check, they "Yes! Yes! Yes-ed" their way to the metal detector. Coliseum regulars joyfully bumped into familiar faces, and concession lines turned into reunions. Chicago Blackhawks fans were welcomed in typically gruff Coliseum fashion.
"It's fantastic," said Patrick Dowd, 55, who lives in Bay Shore and took the Babylon train to the game. "Everybody is all pumped up . . . It's change and I think we all have to embrace the change, but I think it's great. It's a beautiful place. They just can't wait to get things going and win a Stanley Cup."
Most of the upper-deck seats were filled for the first puck drop, but a few pricey seats were bare (particularly those with those odd sightlines). "Obviously, I know about the limitations," Lanzman said, smiling. "I avoided them in my ticket plan, I'll say that."
Kevin Loney, who grew up in Brooklyn but now lives in Manalapan, New Jersey, said the excitement was palpable before the gates opened. His family used to have season tickets, he said, and though he likes Barclays just fine, "nothing will ever be as good as the Coliseum."
Still: "So far, so good here."
Bottom line, Lanzman said, "you want to root for this team . . . I think that as much as people complained, they'll get used to it."
In some cases, it takes no time at all. Joyce Horton, 40, came in from Centereach and was one of the first people through the doors. As she huddled with fellow fans trying to avoid the rain, she saw a man with his son, "and he said they were going to make it their tradition," she said.
"I guess when tradition moves on, it's a new tradition."