UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A lot of New York hockey fans were psyched on Wednesday. The Islanders are set to open their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum.
It marks the first time the Isles have home-ice advantage in a postseason series since 1988.
CBS2’s Steve Overmyer got caught up in the madness off Hempstead Turnpike, where the grills were going and the beverages were flowing early.
The fans started packing the parking lot around lunchtime. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“Absolutely, this is what it’s about,” fan Alex Kline said. “We love home-ice advantage. We’re here to take down the Penguins. We’re gonna win this series and we’re gonna get back on top.”
The NHL threw a bone to Long Island fans weeks before the end of the regular season when it announced home games during the first round of the playoffs, if the Islanders made it, would be played at Nassau Coliseum, the team’s original home for 43 years until it moved to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center following the 2014-15 season.
Web Extra: Playoff hockey is heading back to Long Island:
The Isles split the home dates during the 2018-19 regular season between the two arenas and likely will continue to do so in advance of the completion of the proposed new arena at Belmont Park, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 season.
Should the Isles advance out of the first round, all subsequent home games will be played in Brooklyn.
Islanders fans have made it clear time and again their preference is to see their team play at the Coliseum, and Wednesday was no exception, in part because of the tailgating. Barclays Center does not offer a parking lot for that time-honored tradition.
“There’s nothing like tailgating. This is like the best thing there is,” season ticket holder Blaine Aronovitch said. “You come hear, you hang out with people. You got some good food, you drink. There’s nothing like tailgating. It’s awesome. This is it.”
The Islanders are coming off a regular season that defied belief, considering their best player and captain, John Tavares, left for the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency last summer and nearly every NHL pundit across the continent picked this team to miss the playoffs, with some figuring New York was best suited for the basement of the Metropolitan Division.
But then new general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup last season with the Washington Capitals, did their thing, constructing a team that relies on defense first and strong goaltending. Mix in some young, talented offensive players and an us-against-the-world mentality and the Isles went on to shock the NHL by finishing with 103 points, the most they have amassed in a season since 1983-84, which featured the last of five consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final, a run that ended with four championships.
“We got new management in here and a great coach now. It’s just the beginning,” another fan said. “And wait until the offseason.”
Overmyer was then serenaded by the all-too-familiar “Let’s Go Islanders!” chant, with Kline adding, “The roof is going to blow off!”