UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders may have been hundreds of miles away for Game 5, but there was still plenty of excitement at the Nassau Coliseum, well that was until the game actually started.
The Nassau Coliseum hosted roughly 7,200 fans on Monday night for a Game 5 watching party organized by the Islanders and Nassau County. It was the first team-sanctioned event of its kind during the Islanders’ now two runs to the Stanley Cup Semifinals and came after calls from both county executive Laura Curran and the Nassau County Legislature to host one with COVID-19 restrictions lifted in New York State.
“It’s good for our economic development,” Curran said during an interview with WRHU. “We have the UBS Arena coming, jobs, new train station coming. Real economic investment in our county. That’s good for our brand as a county. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for the spirit and it’s also good for our self-respect. It makes us feel good about being Long Islanders.”
The event drew more than just New York Islanders fans, team alumni were in attendance including Denis Potvin and John Tonelli. The latter has been at several of the Islanders’ home games during their playoff run this year along with alumni from across the team’s history.
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Potvin and Tonelli were both drawn to Monday’s event to soak up as much of the Coliseum while they still can.
“Had I had to make a presentation on the ice, I would have kissed the ice,” Potvin said. “That’s how important this building has been to me. I first walked in here as a 19-year-old. Most of my teammates the same thing, we just grew up here. It’s a bittersweet situation to see it go away. It’s not going to be torn down, that’s good. The hockey part, the barn, Fort Neverlose will move and hopefully reestablished at UBS (Arena).”
Potvin added: “I would have not have missed this. Once the Bruins series was in the hands of the Islanders I had my plane ticket in hand ready to come down.”
The New York Islanders will play at least one more game at the Nassau Coliseum. They currently trail the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Semifinals series after dropping Game 5 in ugly 8-0 fashion on Monday. The Islanders need to win on Wednesday at home in order to keep hope alive for another two games at the Coliseum.
The Islanders will move to UBS Arena next season and earlier on Monday announced they had sold out of season tickets for the inaugural year at their new home.
Still, Monday’s viewing party was a stark difference from what Islanders fan and author of the book “Images of America: Nassau Veteran Memorial Coliseum” Nick Hirshon would have expected to see in the 90s.
“As long as we can keep this energy going, any event here is awesome,” Hirshon said. “I feel like we’re clinging on to every last ounce of energy we can get out of this building. Obviously, it’s so electric during the playoffs, but it really says a lot about the Islanders fan base that they can come together in such large numbers just for a watch party.
“And that it’s actually profitable for the county because the Islanders are doing so well, which growing up as a fan in the late 90s I never thought I’d see a day where they would have a watch party with this many people.”
Game 6 is on Wednesday at 8 p.m.