I spent Friday night in yet another arena I’ve heard nothing good about, and yet another arena I’m not sure deserves the ribbing. Within the first five minutes in the cab to the arena, the driver declared me a Penguins fan. “I know you’re not an Isles fan, because they don’t go to any games!” He clearly had never made it as far as the parking lot where drunk and rowdy Isles fans were playing a spirited game of “punt the penguin”.
Nassau Coliseum might have one of the most unique bowls in the league. The place is tiny, 16,232 seats tiny, and the roof is so low it literally traps in all the noise from the action below.
But that’s the part that has gotten criticized so much, the action below. I was talking with long-time usher Matt Cameron, who explained that because of the team’s lack of success, no one wants to come out and watch. He says he’s met countless local hockey fans who have chosen to support other more successful NHL teams, say the Sabres or Rangers.
For whatever reason, I have a tendency to make arenas with notably poor attendance sell out. The Coliseum was crowded and loud for my visit. Granted there were a ton of Pittsburgh fans, but eventually, the Islanders fans managed to drown out the “Let’s go Pens!” chant that had pretty much rung throughout the building that night.
The Coliseum is one of four or five buildings that are just so old that they stick out as such. Concourses are packed, restrooms are crowded and grimey, entertainment seems out of date, etc. But you can’t fault these places. Some create such a great throw-back feel that you’d much rather see a game there than at the sterile Prudential Center, for example.
It’s difficult for someone my age to imagine games were being played and history being made on that very sheet of ice about 15 years before I was even born. The Islanders have been bad for as long as I can remember (minus a year or two, here and there), and yet, you look to the rafters and see their cup championships, their division and conference titles and retired numbers.
It reminds you that history is cyclical and if you wait long enough even the worst teams will be back on top eventually and vice versa. Similarly, what was once a new state of the art building is now old and decrepit. Some odd number of years from now, a team will get a new arena and the cycle will begin again.
Odds and ends:
- The Islanders had hands down the best intermission contest of my trip. The second period featured a “baby crawl” where they threw down a mat with lanes and had a few babies try to crawl to their mothers at the other end. Fastest one wins. Glorious entertainment.
- There is an interesting situation going on around the Islanders concerning former Islanders PR man and current journalist Chris Botta. After doing the team’s public relations for 15 years, Botta was relieved of his duties, but continued to stay close to the team, writing a team-sponsored Islanders blog. Soon, the Islanders lifted their sponsorship of the blog and earlier this year, pulled Botta’s credential all together saying, “he knows what he did wrong”.
Rumor has it, the issue extends back to when Botta was a PR guy and current Islanders General Manager Garth Snow was a player. Regardless, there are so many hacks on the internet using mediocre blogs to play the role of journalist and gain locker-room access. Botta clearly isn’t one of these.
The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) has begun a motion to boycott voting on this season’s league awards. My gut feeling is that the Islanders overreacted here, but until we find out what Botta “did”, there’s always a chance that he did in fact do something wrong.
Sorry to go off on that tangent, but it involves a domain I knew well in my line of work.
- But speaking of voting on awards, the PWHA gave the team “Good Guy” award to Islanders forward Zenon Konopka. For those not familiar with Konopka’s work, he led the NHL in penalty minutes this season. Either I misunderstood the point of the award, or the PWHA was extending a proverbial middle finger to the Islanders.