EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Sunday’s preseason tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers will be more than just the Islanders first look at what they have for this season. It will be a small preview of what life will be like back at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders will play half of their home games this season and Barclays Center and half at the Coliseum on Long Island. The first regular season game on Long Island will be on December 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But Sunday’s game will serve as a sneak peek of what the fans and players can expect from a Coliseum return. The Islanders played a preseason game against the Flyers last year in front of a sold-out crowd.
“People came out and showed that they’re ready to support us here like they always have been,” Thomas Hickey said following Saturday’s training camp session. “But they were going to come in numbers. I don’t know how things run behind the scenes, but that must have been a good sign to see the building full for an exhibition game. There’s a lot of confidence when we move half our schedule back here for this season that it’s going to be full.”
The Islanders were originally scheduled to play 12 games at Nassau Coliseum, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in June that the team would play an additional eight games on Long Island. The decision to play more games at the Coliseum was met with praise from the Islanders players.
The Islanders called Nassau Coliseum home for 43 years before they moved to the Barclays Center in 2015, but the players who spent time at the Long Island arena always recalled the building fondly.
“I think part of this team never really left,” said Matt Martin, who was re-acquired this past offseason in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I think Trotz said it the other day, the real identity of the Islanders is at the Coliseum. That place sold out is the loudest arena in the league and the probably the best home-ice advantage. To be able to get back in that building and play some games is pretty cool for the guys that were here before the move to Barclays and we’ll enjoy it.”
Sunday’s game will be the only preseason game the Islanders play at Nassau Coliseum before they return in December. The building will undergo renovations before December 1 to bring the venue up to NHL standards.
The Islanders set up this season will a unique one. The team’s first 11 home games will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before they make their Coliseum return and the Islanders will toggle between games at Nassau and Barclays from December until March.
“I think that’s something that we’re going to have to adapt to next year,” Jordan Eberle said about splitting time between the two arenas. “I know we play a lot of the games early on at the Barclays and then the second half is more at the Coliseum. I think if you ask a lot of guys I think the travel to the Coliseum is a little bit easier, but as far as the transition it’s nice that we have half and half. So you don’t have to go back and forth and mix it up.”
Scott Mayfield added: “I know all the guys want to play (at Nassau Coliseum) a little bit more than they want to play at Barclays. We all live down the street. We all live in this area.”
First, the Islanders will get to enjoy the experience of Sunday’s preseason game. Last year, the Islanders defeated the Flyers in overtime thanks to a goal from former captain John Tavares.
It was an experience that was unique for a fall exhibition game.
“The first preseason game it truly did feel like a playoff game,” Hickey said. “It didn’t feel like a hockey (game) in September.”