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Islanders fans begin sentimental last journey

Islanders fans cheer a first-period goal against the

Islanders fans cheer a first-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Since 1972, fans at Nassau Coliseum have seen four Stanley Cup-winning seasons, 1,744 Islanders games and more than 6,000 goals scored by the home team. On Saturday night, the arena hosted its 43rd and final Islanders home opener

"It's a little bittersweet," said Sean Stattel of Franklin Square, one of the 16,170 fans in attendance for the game against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I've been coming all my life. I wish they were staying. Brooklyn looks like a nice place, but I can't take a 10- minute trip to see a game [there]."

The Islanders will play their home games at Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning next season.

"I am going to miss it because everything's changing," Pete Febbraro of Queens said. "This is a little arena, an old arena. Everything else, nowadays, they all look alike. Once you've been in one, you've been in them all."

At the Coliseum, though, Febbraro said, "You're right on top of each other, the bathrooms are small. But it's our place. I'm going to miss the charm of the Coliseum."

Melissa McBride of Lindenhurst, who said she has been going to Islanders games since the early 1980s, said: "Even with the leaks and anything you can complain about, there's still this atmosphere in the Coliseum. There's something special about it, that when you came to a game here, there's no better place to be. Everything shakes, you feel like it's going to fall apart. But you're happy to be there if it falls apart, because you're watching them win."

Stattel, though sad to see the team leave Long Island, is less sentimental about the building the Islanders will leave behind. "It's a little sad,'' he said, "but it's also a nice experience that they get to get out of this old barn and move to a nice, brand-new stadium."

The Coliseum, which opened in 1972, is the second-oldest arena in the NHL behind Madison Square Garden, and its seating capacity of 16,170 is the league's second smallest (behind Winnipeg's MTS Center).

Brian Derry of Westbury, who said he has a lot of personal history at the building, was unsure of how to feel about the team's departure. "I don't know,'' he said. "I'll find out the last game of the season. I've been coming here since they opened it in '72. Now I have not only my sons but I have my grandkids coming." He said the relocation will make it more difficult to go to games.

Wayne Freeman of Huntington Station plans to go to Brooklyn but will miss the Coliseum's atmosphere. "It's very loud,'' he said. "It's a very tough building to play in when the home team is good."

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