For Bridgeport Islanders president of business operations Brent Rossi, he couldn’t have asked for a better way to welcome fans back to Webster Bank Arena than a handful of NHL preseason games.
Saturday will mark the first time in 18 months that Webster Bank Arena will be open to hockey fans after COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of the 2019-20 AHL season and all 12 of Bridgeport’s home games during the truncated 2021 season were played behind closed doors.
“It’s really the best time for us to come out of this pandemic from an organizational perspective,” Rossi said during a phone call with NYI Hockey Now. “When you look at a light at the end of the tunnel, which is Oct. 2 for us, there’s so much to be excited about. … For us to be a part of that and be a spring for the New York Islanders organization to get to UBS Arena, although (Connecticut is) not really home, we kind of see ourselves as their second home.”
The New York Islanders are hosting three exhibition games at Webster Bank Arena starting against the New Jersey Devils this weekend. They’ll host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and then the following weekend play their annual preseason tilt with the New York Rangers in Connecticut as well.
Ticket sales for the Islanders tilt with the Rangers were pacing well when Rossi spoke with NYI Hockey Now. Tickets remain available for the two other preseason contests as well.
Fans will be required to provide proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test, Rossi said. Fans will also need to wear masks inside the arena, which is a City of Bridgeport requirement for indoor venues and events.
“We’ve been working hand in hand with the New York Islanders organization in terms of making sure we’re taking every precaution necessary to prioritize the health and safety of our fans, employees and the players on our teams,” Rossi said. “A thorough deep cleaning and sanitization of the venue to make sure everyone who walks into this facility that it’s going to be a safe facility for everybody and they’re going to have a great experience.”
The three preseason games also coincide with the rebrand of the Islanders AHL affiliate. Over the summer, the team changed its name from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the Bridgeport Islanders to create a greater connection between the two teams.
Everything also aligns with the team’s 20th anniversary season, which will focus a lot on the future of the organization while honoring its Sound Tigers legacy.
“What we’re trying to do, especially with these preseason games, is serve as an appetizer for what will be a historic year for the New York Islanders organization and the Bridgeport Islanders organization. We’re trying to look a little more forward than we are in the past, but we are going to be creating some content pieces to honor everything that’s gone on over these last 20 years from a Bridgeport Sound Tigers perspective.”
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