There will still be, at the very least, two more Islanders’ playoff games at venerable Nassau Coliseum.
But, if things go as planned, Saturday night’s match against the Devils will stand as the final regular-season game at the outdated but beloved barn before the Islanders move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season.
"Yeah it’s definitely sad," said Casey Cizikas, an Islander since 2012. "The Coliseum is the Coliseum. There’s nothing like it. We’re going to try and leave this building with good memories."
The Islanders, of course, left the building once before, moving to Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season. That Brooklyn arena quickly proved unsuitable and the Islanders returned to split home games between the Coliseum and Barclays in 2018-19 and last season. This season marked a temporary full-time return to the Coliseum before opening their new home.
The Islanders entered Saturday’s game with a sterling 20-4-3 home record.
"I don’t know if you can pinpoint one thing, there’s just such a strong connection with the fans and the team being the only team out here on the Island," said Brock Nelson, who also first played for the Islanders in 2012. "The atmosphere when fans get going and the Barn is rocking is second to none. I think everybody can relate to one memory or moment they had at the Coliseum that brought them some excitement and good memories."
"It’s definitely a huge deal for guys that have been there for a while, especially me," said defenseman Nick Leddy, acquired from Chicago in 2014. "When I first got here, I always enjoyed playing here and I think that building has become a real home to me and the guys that have been here for a while."
The Islanders are certainly sending the Coliseum into NHL mothballs on a high note. This season’s home winning percentage is the fourth best in team history at .796 entering Saturday, per team statistician Eric Hornick. The Islanders went 33-3-4 (.875) in 1981-82.
Overall, the Islanders entered Saturday 876-629-169 (ties)-63 (overtime losses) at the Coliseum.
Coach Barry Trotz believes some of that is the atmosphere created at the Coliseum, even with attendance limited to 10% of capacity — 1,400 fans at the final 14 regular-season home games since March 18. But he also believes the home record is also a function of players feeling more comfortable at home, rather than facing the restrictive COVID-19 protocols on the road.
"Well, we’re big-time homers, you look at our record," Trotz said. "I think it’s a comfort level. As much as it is a comfort level with the arena, it’s a comfort level of just being at home. But the Coliseum has always been a good place for the Islanders to play out of. A great history. And I just think our guys just feel comfortable.
"I laugh at our record because I know we’re not that big of a homer team. But I can’t dispute it with our record this year. I just think it’s an intimidating place to come into. It’s got a great history."
There’s still a chance the Islanders will have more regular-season home games at the Coliseum. UBS Arena is targeted to open in November, but the NHL wants to start next season on Oct. 12. Depending on when UBS Arena is ready, the Islanders may have to play a handful of games at the Coliseum.
But the team treated Saturday as if it was the regular-season finale.
"That’s our home," Cizikas said. "We take pride in playing at the Coli and we want to make this as tough as possible."
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