Long Island Islanders’ fans finally saw the dawn of the sun on Saturday, when they were able to witness the moment that was promised.
From the years of wrestling with the inadequacies of Nassau Coliseum to the forced move to Brooklyn, where Barclays Center face-planted as a hockey venue — with obstructed sight lines and shoddy ice quality — the sold-out grand opening of the Islanders’ $1.1 billion UBS Arena on Saturday night marked the dawn of a new era.
A time when the Islanders boast one of most luxurious arenas in the NHL. The building can be used to house a team that reached the Stanley Cup semi-finals each of the previous two seasons. Fans will love the new home.
That much was evident by the impossible-to-miss “Welcome Home” mural painted on the wall next to the escalators to the upper concourse. But what else would you expect from Jon Ledecky, a man who’s known as a fan’s owner.
“Islanders fans have the home that they deserve,” the franchise’s co-owner told The Post before the Isles fell 5-2 to the Flames in front of a passionate crowd of 17,255. “It’s been a long journey, it’s been a lot of work, but here we are.
“I just can’t wait to get inside to see the reaction on their faces as they walk in.”
The real highlight was the wait for Ledecky to thank them personally for creating a new arena.
The man, who had his child diagnosed with cancer in the same year as Ledecky, wrapped himself around Ledecky. He explained to Ledecky how great the show was. Anthony Ferrante from West Hempstead told Ledecky that his brother was with him at the Coliseum opening night. To honor his brother, he said that he had brought Anthony Ferrante Jr. with him to the Coliseum to be in the same seats at the UBS Arena’s opening night.
“Sports brings families together,” Ledecky said. “The Islanders are a family.”
UBS Arena was able to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the company received another reminder about COVID-19, which is still a risky variable.
The Islanders were without their longest tenured player, Josh Bailey; their captain, Anders Lee; in addition to Ross Johnston, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Anthony Beauvillier — who are all currently in COVID-19 protocol. Ryan Pulock, who suffered a lower-body injury and will be sidelined for approximately 4-6 weeks, watched the Islanders from afar. This leaves them with only a small team ready to face the 2400 Hempstead Turnpike game.
“I sent them a little text, because they were the ones that had put a lot of the blood, sweat and tears into keeping this team competitive,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Having to go through the Coliseum, Barclays, and back to the Coliseum. They’re the ones that have grinded through a lot of that and they had to miss that opportunity.”
Still, the Islanders’ most highly anticipated night in recent memory went on as planned. While key members of the Islanders current core couldn’t be there, those who have cemented themselves in the franchise’s history were.
For the Islanders Hall of Fame introductions, Denis Potvin (Clark Gillies), Ken Morrow (Ed Westfall), Ken Morrow), Ken Morrow; Ken Morrow; Ken Morrow; Ken Morrow; Ken Morrow; Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow. Ed Westfall. Patrick Flatley. John Tonelli. Butch Goring. Bob Nystrom. Mike Bossy was then mentioned by the announcer, as he recently revealed that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He was unable attend.
Charles Wang received the greatest tribute. A video tribute was given to Charles Wang, the former Isles owner. It was a fitting tribute to his dedication to Long Island and loyalty. UBS Arena at Belmont Park wouldn’t have been possible without his support.
When the sun rose Saturday night, and the first home contest of the season ended, Isles fans began to fill the arena. They still caused a disturbance despite losing. UBS Arena will host many more games.
Do you believe it’s real yet?