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New York Islanders

Nassau Coliseum Legacy Endures for Islanders Legends Tonelli and Potvin



New York Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Regardless of the outcome on Wednesday night, the Nassau Coliseum was already on borrowed time during the New York Islanders run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Coliseum has provided plenty of memories for those who have played and watched games at the Nassau County-owned facility on 1255 Hempstead Turnpike. The 2020-21 version of the Islanders has only added to those memories, with the latest being a Game 4 last-second save by Ryan Pulock to preserve a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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And it’s what’s given the alumni that still visit the Coliseum so much pride.

“I’m really proud of this hockey team,” Islanders Hall-of-Famer John Tonelli said. “First of all the organization, the ownership, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Right from the top, Lou Lamoriello, Barry (Trotz) and the coaching staff and the players. They are creating their own legacy and they’re putting their own signature on this building. I’m just a happy, big-time fan watching it.”

While the current New York Islanders carve out a place of their own in the history of the Nassau Coliseum, the legacy of the dynasty days is still felt around the building and the organization. The Islanders’ four Stanley Cup Championship banners still hang distinctly above the end where the Islanders shoot twice.

On the other end, the legendary names of all eight players who have had their numbers retired hang proudly above the ice. Among those names is that of Denis Potvin, who still hears from the new generation of fans what his team means to them.

Nassau Coliseum during the playoffs

“I meet 12, 14-year-olds who say ‘we idolize you guys,'” Potvin explained. “So obviously the great moments of the 80s and the 70s were basically passed down by the parents or the grandparents.”

Wednesday marks the potential last game at the Nassau Coliseum before the Islanders move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park. If the Islanders win Game 6 and force a Game 7, it could give the building another chance at one more Stanley Cup.

The New York Islanders haven’t been back to the Cup Final since the likes of Potvin and Tonelli patrolled the ice.

“I first walked in as a 19-year-old and most of my teammates same thing,” Potvin said. “And we just grew up here. It’s a bitter-sweet situation to watch it go away. It’s not going to be torn down, that’s good, but the hockey part, the Barn, Fort Neverlose, all of those things will move on and hopefully be reestablished at UBS.”

For Tonelli, what has made the whole experience unique has been how the fans have continued to embrace him. Asked for one word to describe the fanbase, he replied “family.”

“They call it Islander Nation. It’s family,” Tonelli said. “Islanders Nation/Family to me.”