By Peter Schwartz
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I watched the first two periods of the Islanders’ 2-1 loss to the Capitals in Game 7 Monday night at home and then listened to the third period in the car while driving to work at CBS Sports Radio. A few minutes after the game ended, my cell phone rang. It was a call from home.
I knew exactly what it was about, because I received the same call two years ago, after the Islanders’ Game 6 loss to the Penguins. I was working at WFAN that night when my wife called to tell me that we had a problem: our son Bradley was not taking the loss very well.
After a few minutes, I was able to calm him down.
Fast-forward to Monday night and this time it was an emotional Bradley who actually made the call. Once again, I did my best to put things into perspective for him. We talked for about five minutes, my wife gave him a drink of water, and he went to sleep.
People of various ages tend to handle disappointment in different ways. In this case, 47-year-old dad was stewing inside. I mean, how do you muster just 11 shots on goal in a Game 7? Meanwhile, the 9-year-old son doesn’t know how to hold back his emotions — and he let it all out.
On Tuesday morning, Bradley got dressed for school and came downstairs wearing his Islanders hat. While he knew he might take some ribbing from his Rangers-fan friends in school, he wanted everyone to know how proud he was of his team.
In the afternoon, Bradley came off the school bus with a piece of paper in his hand. He gave it to me and I started to read it. Every week, the kids in his class do a “Weekend News” recap. Since he was off from school Monday because of some common core nonsense (talk about another fiasco!), he did it on Tuesday.
He crossed out “Weekend News” and wrote in “My Islander Story.”
After letting it all out on Monday night, this was his way of expressing his feelings in a much calmer fashion. He wrote about the loss and how the season had come to an end but also covered the subject that has really touched a nerve with every Islanders fan.
Not only was the season over, but so was the Islanders’ 43-year run at “the old barn.” Next season, the team moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“On Saturday, it was the last ever game in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” wrote Bradley of the Isles’ 3-1 win in Game 6. “That place was like my second home.”
Now it was dad’s turn to get emotional.
For my wife Sheryl and me, the Nassau Coliseum has been a big part of our lives. We both grew up just a Mike Bossy slap shot away from the barn in East Meadow and today we still reside in Nassau County, just a short drive away from the barn. We saw our share of games, concerts, and other shows there and we’ve been able to take Bradley and our four-year-old son Jared there on numerous occasions.
Sheryl and I are huge Billy Joel fans, so we hope to see the “Piano Man” at the Coliseum on August 4, the last event in the building before the renovations begin.
But Bradley is old enough to have had the Coliseum be a big part of his life as well. He wasn’t even three when we said goodbye to Shea Stadium and the old Yankee Stadium. I’ve been going there since I was 11 years old. Bradley was just 10 months old when he went to his first Islanders game.
He’s been to a ton of games and he has a clear understanding of the Islanders’ history at the Coliseum.
“We have those banners waving proudly,” he wrote of the four Stanley Cup championships. “We have 7 guys in the Toronto place, the great place, the hall of fame.”
He’s heard me tell the stories of Bill Torrey, Al Arbour, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, all enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bradley can also tell you about Bobby Nystrom and Pat LaFontaine.
He was all of three years old when we all went to the 2009 draft party at the Coliseum. He was in my wife’s arms as over 10,000 people cheered when the Islanders selected John Tavares first overall. He’s met the Islanders’ captain several times as well as other players at team-store autograph signings.
Bradley’s favorite player is Matt Martin, so you can imagine how excited he was when he caught a puck that Martin tossed over the glass during warmups at a game this past season.
Call me silly, but I was proud of Bradley for writing that letter. The Islanders aren’t the most important thing in the world to him, though the situation touched him enough to put his thoughts to paper. We’re all going to miss the Coliseum, but it’s time to embrace the Isles’ new home in Brooklyn.
We’ve been to a couple of Nets games at Barclays Center, which will have a few quirky characteristics for hockey like the scoreboard hanging over the blue line and some obstructed view seats. It’s a beautiful arena with a lot of amenities that we haven’t had at Islanders games over the years.
But as Bradley pointed out, there was something special about the old and obsolete Nassau Coliseum.
“It will be our real home forever,” he wrote.
Spoken like a true fan.
That’s my boy!
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. Bradley is not on social media just yet!