By Peter Schwartz
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The Islanders have their sights set on a long playoff run to end their 43-year history at the Nassau Coliseum. But the clock is ticking towards the pomp and circumstance of the final regular-season home game at the old barn, set for April 11 against Columbus.
The night before, an event will take place to honor the team’s longtime home, while also raising money for two worthwhile causes.
“A Toast to the Coliseum” will take place on Friday, April 10 at Chateau Briand in Carle Place on Long Island. It’s presented by Pat LaFontaine’s “Companions In Courage” foundation and Steve Webb’s “Team Up 4 Community.”
“We’re going to talk about the wonderful days at the Coliseum and kind of have an opportunity to send it off in a really special way,” said LaFontaine, who will be honored by the Islanders at the Coliseum on Tuesday night before the game against Minnesota. “I have fond memories, and that’s where I started my career.”
That night, LaFontaine and Webb will team up with Bobby Nystrom and four generations of former Islanders for a unique viewing party. They’ll watch the Isles take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh the night before the final regular-season game at the Coliseum.
The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and a general admission ticket includes a full dinner and open bar along with a commemorative gift for autographs. VIP tickets also include a private reception with Islanders alumni from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
All proceeds for Lafontaine’s Companions in Courage, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, will go towards the building of interactive playrooms in children’s hospitals throughout North America. The playrooms feature innovative communications tools that replace the isolation of a hospital with a connection to family, friends and celebrities during a child’s hospital stay.
The TU4C proceeds go towards building character among athletes in North America through the promotion and collaboration of community service and social responsibility. Team Up 4 Community is a community giveback project for Webb’s 501(c)(3) W20 Foundation.
“TU4C focuses primarily on inspiring and showcasing community service acts that athletes — ages six through professional and Olympic levels — are contributing to their communities,” said Webb, who played parts of eight seasons for the Islanders.
Those charities will benefit a great deal from an evening that will see the fans and alumni taking a stroll down memory lane,while the current-day Islanders battle a potential first-round playoff opponent in the Penguins.
It’s a night to eat and drink while watching and talking hockey.
“It’s a win-win,” said LaFontaine. “It’s a special event to toast the Coliseum and the memories with the players, and the community coming out to support and help the charities.”
Both LaFontaine and Webb will get to share some wonderful memories about their time with the Islanders and the experience of playing at the Coliseum. LaFontaine joined the Islanders after the 1984 Olympics in time for the Isles’ fifth straight trip to the Stanley Cup finals. Webb also had some playoff experience with the Islanders, including the 2001-02 season when the Isles ended a seven-year postseason drought.
It’s an event where the players and fans will squeeze 43 years of memories into one night.
“Having fans and alumni standing shoulder to shoulder talking about personal moments shared together at the barn will bring some light on a few interesting stories,” said Webb. “Pat and I are very excited to be hosting such a unique event that will bring Islander fans and alumni together to raise a glass to the Coliseum.”
Webb’s NHL career concluded after the 2003-04 season. While he enjoyed some wonderful times playing for the Islanders — including many chants of “Steve Webb! Steve Webb!” by the fans after hard hits and fights — his best Coliseum memory took place after his career was over.
It was the night in 2007 when legendary Islanders head coach Al Arbour returned behind the bench for one night to coach his 1,500th game for the franchise.
“I never had the opportunity to suit up for one of hockey’s greatest coaches,” said Webb. “But that was a powerful moment in sports, with the postgame celebration of replacing the 739-win banner with the new 1,500-games coached banner. It was a day I will always remember at the barn.”
While the Islanders organization has honored the Nassau Coliseum with a series of special days and nights during the season, “A Toast to the Coliseum” is certainly going to be something special. There will be much discussion of the many great memories that the old barn has hosted over the years, and the fans will get a chance to meet many of the players who created those memories.
The current-day Islanders have turned back the clock with their play this season, and hope to create some final unforgettable memories before the move to Brooklyn.
“To see the team really gel together here in this last year of the Coliseum has been extra special,” said LaFontaine. “It’s kind of the icing on the cake to a great building with great memories.”
“A Toast to the Coliseum” will be an event that Islanders fans will surely enjoy. You get to meet former Islanders players in LaFontaine, Webb and Nystrom while also enjoying dinner, drinks, great stories and the Islanders-Penguins game on television.
It will be a fitting tribute to a special building the night before the final regular-season home game at the old barn.
For more information on the event and to order tickets, visit www.coliseumtoast.com. Tickets are limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.