Islanders

Friedman: Failed Arena Referendum Still Lingers Over Islanders

Last Season At Coliseum Can Go A Long Way Toward Easing Pain Of The Last 20 Years
Nassau Coliseum (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Nassau Coliseum (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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By Daniel Friedman
» More Columns

We’re now in the dog days of summer, a time when transactions are few and far between and training camp appears to be so close, yet so far away.

However, anyone who was associated with the Islanders in 2011 can tell you that these days weren’t always quiet.

Today, Aug. 1, marks the three-year anniversary of the ill-fated arena vote. It was a day that, for better or worse, changed the fate of the franchise. It was a day that thwarted a last-ditch effort to keep the team in Nassau County.

The final season at Nassau Coliseum is no longer this thing that’s happening in a few years, like it was in 2011. It is here and we are about experience it. It will be an emotional farewell for a lot of people.

It should be an exciting season as far as the team’s development and performance are concerned, but the end of the Coliseum era will be a major theme. On a day like today, it’s hard not to think about what once was and what could’ve been.

Part of making the transition from the bleachers to the press box is turning in your fan card. You can’t show bias and you have to look at things objectively. However, there are times when it is impossible to ignore the fan inside of you – no matter how hard you try.

For me, the Coliseum started to feel more like an office than the dream world I considered it to be as a kid. My stomach wouldn’t jump at first sight of the building while driving on Hempstead Turnpike. I didn’t get that same rush, that same sense of wonderment at hockey games.

That‘s the way it had been for quite a while, but it all changed a few weeks ago.

I was heading to the old barn to cover prospect camp and, as I entered the building, I realized that this was the last hurrah. At this time next year, professional hockey in Nassau County will only exist on video, in print and pictures, and in our memories. It will be gone. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

And so, as I walked around the concourse towards the ice level staircase – something I’ve done hundreds of times — I found myself stopping to take in the eerie silence and temporary vibe of my surroundings.

I found myself looking up at the stands – something else that I’ve done hundreds of times — and reminiscing.

I scanned the upper levels and located the spot where my friends and I celebrated my ninth birthday. I began to recall that the Canucks were in town and it was Vytra hockey stick day. I remembered watching Mike Sillinger beat the Penguins with 26 seconds left in the third period. I remembered Nyles, the foghorn, the air ride siren and Ziggy Palffy.

Three years ago Friday, I woke up at the crack of dawn to vote early and encourage others to do the same. I hung up fliers all over town and spent much of the day on social media, trying to convince people to support the referendum.

I’ve tried to suppress these thoughts, but just couldn’t. A small part of me is still running around hanging up fliers.

The move to Barclays Center is a very good thing for this franchise. The Islanders will be in a state-of-the-art arena and will be financially stable. It will help them stay competitive and attract talent – assuming they can become a winning team.

But with that said, the Coliseum deserves one last playoff run, one last magic show. The Islanders need to end this era on a high note. Anything less would be a disgrace to the legacy they’re leaving behind.

No matter what happens, I’ll be there to the very end. The fan inside of me has been silenced, but when those lights go out for the very last time, I will cry. I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

Considering the team’s bright future and it’s glorious past, this is going to be a very emotional season at Nassau Coliseum.

Yet somehow, the word “bittersweet” doesn’t quite do it justice.

Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter at @DFriedmanOnNYI

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