Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – There is something a bit disingenuous about the reverence that’s been bestowed upon the Nassau Coliseum in the New York Islanders’ final season at the old barn.
The arena has been derided for decades, but now that it is close to officially outgrowing its usefulness, folks are getting nostalgic about the building often derisively called “The Mausoleum.”
It makes sense how the much-maligned building is getting treated with sympathy these days. In fact, John Huston’s character, Noah Cross, in the 1974 film classic “Chinatown” could have had the Coliseum in mind when he uttered one of his most famous lines.
“‘Course I’m respectable. I’m old,” grumbled Cross. “Politicians, ugly buildings and w$&%@# all get respectable with age.”
The Coliseum may be an old, ugly building, but it belongs to the people of Long Island. It also was the site of great memories for those folks old enough to recall the glory days of the Islanders’ dynasty of the early 1980s.
The Isles likely will never approach the amazing run which saw the franchise claim four straight Stanley Cup victories. That’s OK, though, because neither will any other club in this salary-cap era where parity rules the day.
For now, all that matters is sending the Coliseum out on a high note. At first, making the playoffs — a rarity for the franchise over the last few decades — was enough. With that achieved, winning a postseason series, something the Isles haven’t done since 1993, became the goal.
The latter task seemed well within New York’s reach early in its first-round series against Washington, but is in serious doubt at the moment. The Islanders led the Capitals 1-0 and 2-1 in this best-of-seven series, but consecutive losses in Games 4 and 5 have Washington just one win away from moving on and sending New York into the offseason.
Of course, once the story of the Isles’ 2015 playoff run is over, the next chapter will begin in a new setting. The club and its superstar captain John Tavares are picking up stakes and moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.
The relocation is an exciting time for the franchise, but as good as things could become for the team in the New York City borough, the club obviously wants to give its long-suffering fans something to cheer about before wrapping things up on the Island.
As of now, there is only one guaranteed game remaining at the Coliseum — Saturday’s Game 6 against the Capitals. Even if the Islanders win that contest, they’ll also need to take Game 7 in D.C. to continue playing hockey at the building the club has called home since the franchise’s inception in 1972.
One outcome the club needs to avoid is another loss like the one it suffered in Game 5 on the road. Although the Capitals only led by a goal after two periods, they wound up taking the contest by 5-1 score. After the rough defeat on Thursday, the Islanders were right to say that no matter the score, they would still be down 3-2 in the series. That was true about Game 5, but under the special circumstances surrounding Game 6, things like the final score absolutely matter.
The recent shellacking should provide even more motivation to come out strong on Saturday afternoon, but the prospect of waving goodbye to the Coliseum should already be enough.
“It shouldn’t be,” said Isles coach Jack Capuano when asked if it would be difficult to get motivated for Saturday after a rough loss. “If you can’t, you’re in the wrong profession, and you’re wearing the wrong sweater.”
Thomas Hickey, a 26-year-old defenseman who was born nearly six years after New York lifted its last Cup in 1983, doesn’t seem like a guy who is going to have trouble getting up for Saturday’s game and his teammates should be following his lead.
“We know what it means for our fans,” Hickey said. “That can’t be the last game there. It just can’t be the last game for them. We’re going to come with our heads on and be ready to play and make sure it’s not going to be the last game there.”
Hickey and his teammates know ensuring Saturday won’t be the final game at the Coliseum is a two-step process, but the second step won’t exist without taking care of the first. That’s why getting a win from Game 6 has become an all- important task. It’s become the least the Islanders can do for their fans, and even if they wind up falling in seven to the Capitals, it’s still possible to make Saturday a special day for Long Islanders.
Watching your team get eliminated from the playoffs only seems like the end of the world for fans, but in this situation, that isn’t too far from the truth. For many people, something which has been a big part of their lives for over 40 years is indeed ending.
On Saturday, a bunch of guys on skates are going to do their best to forgo that inevitable reality for a little while longer.
“We’re going to have to throw everything at them,” Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk promised.
For the sake of the diehards in Uniondale, let’s hope “everything” will be enough.