At least it wasn’t a losing streak that kept the crowds at home.
Only 3,136 were on hand to witness the Islanders snag their third straight win--a 4-1 victory over Montreal--when Mother Nature intervened last night. A post-Christmas blizzard that arrived late Sunday morning made driving conditions treacherous and the game a low priority among Long Island residents.
But last Sunday night’s Islanders-Canadiens game at Nassau Coliseum went on as scheduled despite the conditions — heavy snowfall, strong winds and low visibility.
According to multiple sources, the Islanders’ request for postponement ultimately was overruled by the league.
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker told Newsday that he discussed the situation with NHL executive Colin Campbell Sunday and advised him to postpone the game.
“The most important thing for us is to ensure that roads are passable for public safety. We asked Nassau County residents to stay home unless it was an emergency. To have people out of their homes at 7 p.m. didn’t feel prudent at this time,” Walker said. “\[Campbell\] said he understood the issues and would have to discuss the situation with [NHL commissioner Gary Bettman].”
Traditionally, the league decides to postpone a game based on the recommendation of the home team, but it decided otherwise this time.
Although the league declined to comment for this story, it is believed the ruling was based upon the fact that both teams arrived safely and were available to play and because no state of emergency was declared for Nassau County.
“Both teams are here, officials are here and that’s why we’re playing,” Islanders Director of Communications Kimber Auerbach said.
Before the heavy snowfall began hitting the area early Sunday afternoon, both the Islanders and Canadiens arrived at the rink with no complications and held their morning skates as scheduled.
Aided by a spectacular 38-save performance from veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson, the Islanders gave the few fans willing to brave the storm a good show with a decisive win.
P.A. Parenteau and James Wisniewski both scored power-play goals in the third period, Frans Nielsen added two helpers and Blake Comeau and Michael Grabner also scored to help the Islanders string together three straight for only the second time this season. Tomas Plekanec spoiled Roloson's shutout at 7:51 of the third, but it was a superb showing by the 41-year-old goaltender, regardless.
On their website, the Islanders announced a plan to reimburse fans who were unable to attend the game. They also modified the ticket policy to allow those who actually attended the game to exchange their ticket “to any future Islanders home game starting with this Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins through the remainder of the 2011 season, based on availability.”
The latter issue is not likely to be a problem. Long before Sunday night’s understandably sparse showing, the Islanders were dealing with ghastly attendance figures. They have drawn fewer than 10,000 fans on eight occasions this season.
Some diehard fans were undeterred by the weather.
Canadiens fans Roy and Jeanette Wood of Marlboro, N.Y., braved the weather to make good on a Christmas present to their children Christy, 11, and R.J., 10.
The Woods, who made the two-hour drive Sunday morning, bought six tickets so their kids could attend their first professional hockey game and watch their favorite player, Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
“We might own the place, but that’s OK,’’ Jeanette said. “We got good seats from a season-ticket holder that didn’t want to go to the game the day after Christmas. We’re front row, so it should be exciting.”
Coincidentally, the Islanders faced the Canadiens in similar conditions last year, when Long Island was pelted with more than two feet of snow on Dec. 19. Jaroslav Halak’s 40-save shutout helped Montreal to a 3-0 win before 7,842.