The Islanders are becoming a “normal” NHL franchise again.
That’s how coach Barry Trotz described the net result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Saturday that the Islanders will play all potential home playoff games this season and all home games next season at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum before their new arena opens at Belmont Park.
That means the Islanders have three games remaining at Barclays Center, starting Tuesday night against the Canadiens, with the finale on March 22 against the Hurricanes. The Islanders have split home games between the two rinks this season and last after initially moving to Brooklyn in 2015.
“Things will be normal,” Trotz said. “Having two rinks is not normal in the NHL, so getting back to normal will be good.”
Last season, the Coliseum hosted the first round of the playoffs (a four-game sweep of the Penguins) and Barclays hosted the second round (a four-game sweep by the Hurricanes).
“It’s nice for us,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “The atmosphere here during the playoffs is unmatched. And we all live in and around this area, so we’ll be getting a couple of hours back just being able to come here. And this has always felt like home for us.”
“It’s exciting,” Anders Lee added. “There’s arena news all the time for us. But honestly, I think everyone agrees this is our home and we love playing here.”
Oddly, the Islanders are 7-0-3 at Barclays and a so-so 13-8-2 at the Coliseum this season.
“You look at the record in Brooklyn, maybe we want to play in Brooklyn,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said.
No, he was kidding.
Mayfield did have a message to the Islanders’ fans regarding the Coliseum atmosphere.
“The biggest thing I want to say to them is they are putting that faith in Long Island, the city around the Coliseum, and we need to make sure we’re packing the house as much as we can,” he said. “When we have people in here, it’s loud. It’s fun to play in, and if we’re going to play games here, in the playoffs especially, it’s important we get everyone here.”
Capacity at the Coliseum — which was sold out on Saturday — is 13,917, minuscule by NHL standards. The building, even after upgrades, looks much the way it did when the Islanders began playing there in 1972.
“I’m thrilled,” said four-time Stanley Cup winner Butch Goring, who had his No. 91 raised to the rafters on Saturday and is the team’s television analyst. "You heard from all the Hall of Famers and guys who have their jerseys up there. You’ve heard from the present-day players. You’ve heard from Barry Trotz. This is home. The environment, the atmosphere that the fans create here is one of the main reasons they feel it’s home. It’s special.”
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