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Remembering the Day Hockey Returned to Nassau Coliseum

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New York Islanders first game back at Nassau Coliseum

On the night of Dec. 1, 2018, it had been over three years since the New York Islanders last played a meaningful hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum. In a matter of hours, that would change and the Islanders would make their triumphant return to their longtime home with a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was two years ago that the Islanders returned to the Nassau Coliseum after departing for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn following the 2014-15 season. The Islanders stay at Barclays Center could be described as rocky at best and they soon found their way back to Long Island after a couple of seasons.

In December of 2017, the Islanders officially won the rights to develop a new arena at Belmont Park and in January of 2018 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would return to Long Island early by splitting their time between the Barclays Center and the renovated Nassau Coliseum. Thus bringing us back to Dec 1, 2018, and the team’s long-awaited return to the Coliseum.

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To say that the night lived up to the hype would be putting it mildly.

Islanders fans arrived hours in advance to tailgate in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot and the area around the Islanders net was rows deep with fans watching warmups. The December night had the feeling of a playoff hockey game.

“Driving home from practice this morning and seeing people in the parking lot at 11:30 in the morning and then stepping onto the ice for warmups was a different atmosphere,” Casey Cizikas said at the time. “That was crazy and that was something we built off of. When (the Blue Jackets) started to have a push the crowd got into and got the moment pushed back to our way. We fed off that.”

Coincidentally, Columbus had been the last opponent the Islanders had played in the regular season at the Nassau Coliseum. They were there again on that fateful Saturday to re-open the building to NHL hockey.

Columbus had jumped to an early lead, but the Islanders rallied that night off goals from Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas. It was Cizikas’ goal at 7:09  of the third period that served as the go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner.

“I had a lot of emotions running through my body,” Cizikas said that night. “I think I was more tired from screaming from the celebration than from the actual shift. (Ryan Pulock) made a hell of a play. He drew the two guys going wide and he made a perfect pass to me.”

The night was the first of 21 dates that the Islanders would play that year at the Coliseum. They would play another two nights there during the playoffs.

The Islanders returned the next season for even more home dates on Long Island and earlier this year Gov. Cuomo announced that they would play their final season before UBS Arena opens in 2021 entirely at Nassau Coliseum. With the 2020-21 NHL season still up in the air, it’s unclear if the Islanders will get a chance to say one final good bye to the Coliseum with their fans in the building.

But on Dec 1, 2018, the hockey world was reminded why the Nassau Coliseum is such a unique place to play.

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