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Islanders Fans Return to Nassau Coliseum Remains Uncertain

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Nassau Coliseum home of the New York Islanders

It may be a little longer before New York Islanders fans are back in the Nassau Coliseum.

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello cautioned that the team may not be letting spectators right in after Gov. Andrew Cuomo allows limited fans back into New York sporting venues beginning Feb. 23.  Lamoriello told reporters that there were still a lot of unknowns about protocols.

The first game the Islanders would be allowed to have fans inside the Coliseum would be on Feb. 25 against the Boston Bruins.

“I don’t think you can assume anything. There is a lot that has to be done well before that,” Lamoriello said in response to a question from NYI Hockey Now. “And that’s not too far away. I don’t believe it will happen at that date, but I’m not the final decision-maker. With that the decisions will come from what the protocol is, can we satisfy the protocol. What is going to be necessary for the fans to be able to come in.”

Venues are only allowed 10 percent capacity under Cuomo’s guidelines and patrons must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event. Social distancing will be enforced and face coverings will be required inside.

The New York State Department of Health must also approve all venue reopening plans.

When Cuomo made the announcement last Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and New York Rangers all announced dates they would start to let fans back in. The Islanders did following the governor’s announcement.

“There’s certainly a lot of questions unanswered at this point,” Lamoriello said. “Everyone is working on it, but I don’t feel anyone should put a date on it.”

Following the Feb. 25 matchup with Boston, the next available game the Islanders could up the arena up to fans would the weekend set of games they have against Pittsburgh on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. The Islanders have not hosted a home game at Nassau Coliseum with fans in attendance since March 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lamoriello said that everyone was excited to hear fans would be allowed back into the arena, but that it was also somewhat of a somber moment as well.

“Certainly knowing what this pandemic has done to people that were close to me and certainly friends, how important it is for the safety and health of all our fans and all of our people,” Lamoriello said. “That will take prime focus before that happens. There’s a lot of protocol that will have to be answered, but I’m excited to hear the potential of that coming about in the near future.

“But I don’t feel that should happen until we can handle that in a very safe way.”

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Islanders Announce Fans Can Return to Nassau Coliseum on March 18

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NHL New York Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum

The New York Islanders will begin allowing fans back in the building on March 18, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers on March 18 and the statement from the team emphasized the return of season ticket holders on that date. State regulations currently limit capacity at venues in New York to 10 percent capacity and the Islanders said they would be following all required safety protocols.

A FAQ page set up by the Islanders says that roughly 1,300 fans will be allowed to attend games under the current state guidelines, which were announced on Feb. 10.

The team will welcome 1,000 frontline workers from Northwell Health on March 11 as a thank you for their “heroic efforts this past year.” The Islanders host the New Jersey Devils that night at Nassau Coliseum

Season ticket holders are being given priority for all homes this season, the team said. The FAQ page indicated that season ticket holders and suite holders would be given priority access to purchase tickets in order of tenure, followed by the general public.

As of now, the Islanders have only made seven-game available to purchase tickets to, which includes the March 18 date. March 20 vs. Philadelphia Flyers, April 1st vs. Washington Capitals, April 3rd vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Tuesday, April 6 vs. Washington Capitals,  April 8 vs. Philadelphia Flyers and April 9 vs. New York Rangers will have tickets sold as well, according to the team site.

Fans will need to provide a negative PCR test that was administered within 72 hours of the game. The Islanders have partnered with Northwell Health GoHealth Urgent Care to create a “dedicated process for fans to ensure that you have your test results in hand on game day,” the FAQ page said.

 

If a fan tests negative or fails a temperature check on game day, they will be given a refund. Fans will also receive refunds for any canceled games and a refund option will be available if a game has to be rescheduled.

Fans are being asked to stay at home if they are feeling symptomatic or not feeling well, in which case they will be offered a refund as well, according to the Islanders website.

The announcement about the Coliseum reopening to fans was welcomed news to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. She has been a vocal supporter of the Islanders and lobbied the NHL to allow them to play all of their home games on Long Island in their final year before UBS Arena opens.

“We know that it’s starting at just 10 percent capacity, but we’re hoping that number continues to go up and up and up until we’re at full capacity,” Curran said in a video posted on Twitter. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing you there. Let’s rock the barn.”

Prior to the start of the season, there was a question of if fans would even be allowed into the Nassau Coliseum for games. During a ceremony honoring frontline workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky wasn’t sure when that date would be.

“That time will eventually arrive, but we are going to listen to the health authorities and the experts at each and every step,” Ledecky said during the December event.

 

The Islanders had been one of the only metropolitan teams currently playing that had not announced when their fans would be back at their arena following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement earlier this month that venues could reopen. The Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden both welcomed fans back on Tuesday, which was the first day when they could reopen with 10 percent capacity, COVID testing and strict social distancing rules in place.

The New York Rangers will have fans back in the building on Friday when they host the Boston Bruins.

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NYHN Reader Poll: Would You Feel Comfortable Attending Islanders Games?

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NHL New York Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that large arenas and stadiums could begin to reopen on Feb. 23, which includes the New York Islanders home of Nassau Coliseum.

The announcement was met with approval and excitement from pro sports franchises and local officials. The Nassau Coliseum, along with other venues in New York State, will be limited to 10 percent capacity when their doors do open.

“It’s exciting that Governor Cuomo has announced that New York State will allow a limited number of fans to attend games starting February 23rd,” The Islanders said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the best fans in hockey back to the Coliseum as soon as possible and to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season. … The health and safety of our fans and our staff remains our top priority.”

Priority for tickets is being given to season ticket holders.

But how comfortable will Islanders fans be with returning to the Nassau Coliseum, even with a smaller than normal capacity in the arena? We decided to take the question right to you and let you sound off here on NYI Hockey Now.

Vote in our poll below and feel free to expand on that vote in the comment section as to why you would or would not feel comfortable going to a game in person right now.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

Do You Feel Comfortable Attending Islanders Games Again in Person?
Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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Nassau Coliseum, Sports Venues in NY Can Reopen Beginning Feb. 23

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An inside view of the New York Islanders home arena

The Nassau Coliseum doors could be opening soon.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that sports arenas in the state could open with limited capacity beginning on Feb. 23.  The new edict allows any arena or stadium with over 10,000 person capacity to reopen with 10 percent capacity being admitted.

Anybody attending will need to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the event and social distancing and face coverings will be enforced inside the venue. The plan is a mirror of the one the state approved for the Buffalo Bills in December when they hosted two playoff games at Bills Stadium.

“The Buffalo Bills program was an unparalleled success,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in Albany. “The only stadium for football to open up with testing, believe it or not, was what we did here in New York. … This hits the balance of safe reopening.”

The reopening plan would mean that roughly 1,400 fans would be allowed into Nassau Coliseum for games once the New York State Department of Health approved the plan to open the venue safely. All approval for arena openings in the state will go through the department of health.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The Islanders are 11 games into the 2020-21 season and have played only three games at home this year. The Islanders will have 22 home games at the Nassau Coliseum after Feb. 23, which is the day Cuomo earmarked to reopen arenas and stadiums.

Season ticket holders will receive first priority when the Islanders do open up the Coliseum for games after the governor’s deadline.

“It’s exciting that Governor Cuomo has announced that New York State will allow a limited number of fans to attend games starting February 23rd,” The Islanders said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming the best fans in hockey back to the Coliseum as soon as possible and to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next season. … The health and safety of our fans and our staff remains our top priority.”

The 2020-21 season is the Islanders’ finale one at Nassau Coliseum before they move to UBS Arena in the fall. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran had championed the Islanders to return a year early to play a full season at the Coliseum last year.

Cuomo stepped in and persuaded NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to allow it, announcing the decision during a Feb. 29 press conference at the Coliseum ahead of the Islanders’ loss to the Boston Bruins.

NYHN Reader Poll: Would You Feel Comfortable Attending Islanders Games?

“I’m thrilled that Islanders fans will be able to safely rock the Barn again,” Curran said in a statement to NYI Hockey Now. “Governor Cuomo reopening arenas is a big step towards New York’s safe return to normal, and the reopening of the Coliseum means so much for Nassau. We know virus risk is dramatically reduced with precautions in place and rules being followed. I’m confident that we’re ready to do this safely and smoothly.”

Earlier this month Curran had expressed hope that the Islanders would be able to get fans into the building. During an interview with NYI Hockey Now, she said that opening up the building to fans by the playoffs was “within the realm of possibility.”

The Islanders have played three games at the Nassau Coliseum so far and have two more later this week. They are also scheduled to play the Buffalo Sabres one day before arenas can reopen.

Nearly all NHL teams have been playing in front of empty areas to start the year.

“I will say this as a coach, and I can speak for the athletes, we would really enjoy the fans back,” head coach Barry Trotz said.  “We miss that element in our game or in sport, or in life. … We love them. They’re a big part of what we do.”

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