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Home Sweet Home: New York Islanders get First Taste of UBS Ice

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New York Islanders
Photo Credit: Peter Schwartz

As the construction continued around them, the New York Islanders got the first taste of their new home on Thursday morning. The team opted to practice at UBS Arena ahead of Saturday’s home opener to get a feel for the new building.

Around them, workers continued to put the finishing touches on the building. The $1.1 billion arena is a culmination of three decades worth of effort to find the New York Islanders a permanent state-of-the-art home, and the new building didn’t disappoint.

“I had no expectation because I hadn’t seen it so it was kind of nice just walking into it with complete surprise,” Mathew Barzal said. “Absolutely blew me away. I walked right in and saw the gym, saw our eating area and I couldn’t wait to see more. The entire facility and the rink and how it was set up is just so high-end. I can’t even tell you how nice it is down here.”

New York Islanders

Photo credit: Peter Schwartz

The Islanders will open the building on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames, who were also the same team that opened the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders hosted the then Atlanta Flames in the first-ever game at the Coliseum on Oct. 7, 1972.

New York is hoping for a bit of a different outcome than that game, in which they fell to Atlanta 3-2.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. I know the fans have,” Anders Lee said. “Just to get in here & have a practice was pretty cool. … To see how hard everyone’s been working on this place, it’ll be really great to get everybody in here.”

The New York Islanders have spent the first 13 games on the road and head into their first game having dropped their last four games. The Isles are 5-6-2 over the road trip and hope that the return to Long Island can give them an added boost.

The closest they have come to playing a home game over the last month and a half had been their meeting with the New Jersey Devils in Newark last week. A sizable portion of the crowd was made up of Islanders fans that night.

Part of why the Islanders trekked to Elmont on Thursday was to become a bit more familiar with the building before Saturday. Head coach Barry Trotz mentioned earlier in the week that the Islanders and Calgary will have played there the same amount of times come the opener.

They want to have a little bit more of a home rink feel when they play on Saturday night.

“I think just walking into the building and at least knowing where your office is, where the dressing room. Just being familiar,” Trotz said. “I know I’m going to get lost a couple of times just because we’re not over here all the time. I think it was very important  There’s still a lot of construction going on and a lot of it is finishing stuff, which is normal.”

One player that was absent on Thursday and will likely miss Saturday’s home opener is Josh Bailey. The tenured Islander is still in Florida in quarantine following COVID protocols.

Bailey has seen just about every part of the New York Islanders attempt to get a new building. He was part of the team during the Lighthouse project, referendum  and the short-lived time at the Barclays Center.

“It sucks, I feel for him,” Lee said about Bailey. “If there’s anyone that deserves to open up this building it’s Josh. It’s going to be tough not to have him with us and I know he’s going to make his mark on this building when he gets a chance when he comes out of this thing.”

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