End of a tradition for hometown fans as Islanders leave

Nassau Coliseum is the oldest, un-renovated hockey arena in the country. Even though it hasn’t been updated in 43 years, the hometown feel is what has kept people coming back.

“The place shakes, literally.  The roof blows off.”  says Alex Klein, 48, a salesman from Roslyn. When he attends Islander’s games at the Coliseum, he remembers the reason that he became a “die-hard fan.”

Fans preparing fire pit at Nassau Coliseum

Fans preparing fire pit at Nassau Coliseum

Even in subzero conditions, the dedicated fans were still out in the parking lot with their grills and firepits ablaze on one of the coldest days on Long Island in over 10 years. However after playoffs are over, tailgating will be no more.

“The move sucks!” says Klein, a self-proclaimed die-hard Ranger hater. “Tickets are going to be more expensive and the concessions will be higher, a lot of season ticket holders will be lost”.

Nassau Coliseum is the last place in New York for hockey fans to show their love for their team by tailgating for hours.

“The environment inside the arena is insane!” said Klein, “During a game the place literally shakes from all the cheers!”

Islanders fan Alex Klein tailgating at Nassau Coliseum

Islanders fan Alex Klein tailgating at Nassau Coliseum

“The Barclays is not built right to be able to hold hockey games” said Neil Diamond, 45, a computer tech from Amityville and a season ticket-holder. “The scoreboard is off center and there are a lot of seats with a limited view inside that arena.”

Klein and Diamond both predict that ticket sales will go down when the move happens and the team will be forced back to Nassau Coliseum. “I give it 3 to 5 years and the Islanders will be back on Long Island”, says Diamond.

The Detroit Red Wings were approved for an arena renovation in late 2014 and Diamond wants to know “How can a bankrupt city get a new arena and we don’t?”

Islanders fan Alex Klein tailgating at Nassau Coliseum

Islanders fans tailgating at Nassau Coliseum

By moving, the fans say they are losing the family-oriented feeling as well. “Parents can come home from work, pick up the kids and make it over to the game in a reasonable time [at the Coliseum].  That is going to be impossible at the Barclays,” says Diamond.

Traveling with kids will be a hassle and if traveling by rail, the trip may involve as many as four trains to get to the Barclays. Even if you wanted to attempt to tailgate by driving to the game…Fuhgeddaboudit. The nearest parking is three blocks away and pricing is expected to be steep.

Diamond says the lack of families and the difficulty of traveling from the island will leave the Islanders games feeling as corporate as Madison Square Garden.

Ranger fans expressed sympathy towards Islanders fans because of their experience with the move to Madison Square Garden . “Not being able to tailgate takes some of the fun away from going to the game. The value of a hockey ticket looks better when you can tailgate” says Ranger fan Michael Meli, 31, an engineer from Queens.

The move affects not only Islanders fans but rival Rangers fans as well. When Dan O’Brien, 32, an engineer from Rockland, was asked why he was tailgating on one of the coldest days this year, he said “It’s one last memory here before it is shut down.”

The Islanders could not be reached for comment.

Pictures by Sydney Colbert and Danielle Santucci