Nassau Coliseum is ready for its final ride with the Islanders.
Whenever this Islanders playoff run ends, so too will their time at the Coliseum, which has been their home since 1972. Beginning with the 2021-22 NHL season, the team will move into fresh digs at the 17,000-seat UBS Arena near Belmont Park race track.
Islanders fans had a first goodbye the beloved rink six years ago. Cal Clutterbuck was originally the answer to the Who scored the final goal at Nassau Coliseum? trivia question for his empty-netter during Game 6 of their 2015 First Round series against the Capitals. The next season they moved to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a short-lived stay before returning to their old, refurbished home on Long Island in Dec. 2018.
After playing two games with a little over 9,000 fans at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, the Islanders will get a taste of a raucous crowd supporting them with 7,200 fans in the building for Game 3 Thursday night (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN). As New York State has eased COVID-19 restrictions, the Coliseum will see 50% of the seats set up for vaccinated fans three feet apart and the other half with non-vaccinated people six feet apart.
“It just gets me excited to get to the Coli,” said defenseman Scott Mayfield “It’ll be fun. It’ll be loud in there and hopefully we can have the start like they did [Tuesday].”
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]
The Islanders went most of the season without fans inside the Coliseum. It wasn’t until the middle of March that 10% capacity was allowed. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in April that the number would increase to 25% for the playoffs, but last week he revealed the 50/50 split plan.
While a louder rink will provide good support, the Islanders face two crucial games at home against the Penguins. With their First Round series knotted at one, they don’t want to head back to Pittsburgh for Monday’s Game 5 facing elimination.
A good crowd with lots of energy, which Nassau Coliseum has provided during big moments in Islanders history, will give the players something they can use to their advantage.
“It raises the emotional level, especially for the home team,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “It seems strange. It’s been quiet for the last little while. Now, I’ve got people yelling at me, at the team and each other and you can’t hear on the bench. It’s a good feeling to be back to that. It brings juice to the game. It brings emotion. It brings all that. We’re in the business of emotion, that’s what sports is.
“That’s what we’re looking forward to when we get back to the Island. Our fans will hopefully give us that boost that we need to get over the top.”
PENGUINS VS. ISLANDERS (Series tied 1-1) – series livestream link
Game 1: Islanders 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1
Thursday, May 20: Penguins at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Saturday, May 22: Penguins at Islanders, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Monday, May 24: Islanders at Penguins TBD
*Wednesday, May 26: Penguins at Islanders TBD
*Friday, May 28: Islanders at Penguins TBD
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.