UNIONDALE, NY – There is something special about old hockey arenas. They have that comfort that makes you feel like you’re wrapped up in a warm woolen sweater, which, to be honest, you can certainly use in some of them. They have charm and subtle undertones that make them special, and they have an unprecedented history.
And maybe it’s because of days like Thursday, when the Islanders hosted the Penguins in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup Playoff game – and the seats had fans in them.
Many of them.
It had been a long time coming.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deprived everyone of watching the end of the 2019-2020 season. It forced the world to watch the summer playoffs from home, even fans who could walk past the NHL bubble hockey facilities, Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and Edmonton’s Rogers Place. Most rinks still had no audiences at the start of the 2021 season in January – and the four remaining Canadian clubs in the playoffs are still fanless.
“We miss my fans very much,” said Oilers captain and Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid recently. “It’s hard to see some of these [playoff] games in the south with fans going crazy and the building looks pretty crowded. Obviously we missed it a lot and we know our fans would go crazy this time of year. “
Was the Colosseum packed to the rafters on Thursday or even Saturday for Game 4? No, not even close. There were only about 6,800 people in a building with more than 13,000 seats. But, after months of being locked in, looking for the familiar, wanting things to come back as they were, Thursday felt almost normal.
“I’ve been to so many games at the Colosseum over the years, including a lot of big playoff games,” said Nick Hirshon, an Islanders fan and season holder. “You’re used to it being a loud atmosphere, especially a game like [Thursday] where there is back and forth and there are big goals scored, fights, everyone is high-fiving, chanting. There were still a lot of “Let’s Go Islander” chants. There were still a lot of people getting into it, obviously, when the Islanders come back, tie the game. But it wasn’t the same – it was like getting a little closer to it. “
Blue or white Islanders’ sports jerseys, the faithful support each other on their club. From the packaged vaccinated half to the socially unvaccinated furthest away (per New York state guidelines), chants and cheers echoed around the old barn in its final whirl around the playoff dance floor. .
Sometimes it was closer to when the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups. Sometimes it was more like the days of the old rivalry between the Rangers and the Islanders. At times he felt closer to the recent memory of John Tavares returning as the Maple Leaf.
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They chanted “Barry” for head coach Trotz as he carefully walked along the boards on the ice to the bench in his dress shoes with the rubber soles. They rained boos when the Penguins skated each time and they clapped like hell for their team – especially when there was a thunderous failure or a big save by Semyon Varlamov. And, of course, each time the Long Island boys came back before losing 5-4 and losing 2-1 in the top seven series.
“We’re going to need all the positive vibes from our audience,” Trotz said Thursday. “We might not get off to a good start, but stick with us. When we started they played a big role. It’s great. It’s a great atmosphere and our fans will help us get through this series and hopefully win the playoffs. “
Hello my old friend, nice to see you again.
(The unvaccinated and vaccinated sections of the Colosseum are ready to depart for tonight.) pic.twitter.com/px7sabqYDP
– Jackie Spiegel (@ jackiespiegel93) May 20, 2021
It’s no surprise that the building is noisy despite not being filled to the brim. Newer buildings aren’t built like this one, which will close its hockey doors at the end of this post-season island run. The ceiling is low and condenses and squeezes each fan into a perfect note as if it is screaming in unison in your ear.
“The crowd was in on it and it was fun having the fans back in the building. Obviously that gave us a lot of energy and we felt it for sure,” said Anthony Beauvillier.
The energy was strong, if a bit skewed with one side thinner in number than the other – but it felt almost normal.
Every time the team chanted “Jar-ry” to heckle Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, it was like one step closer.
Every time they reacted with a wave of emotion, like when the 5v5 scrum took place at the start of the third period, another step.
And yes, every time they told the refs that they didn’t think they were very good at their job.
We are almost there.
We’ve now seen him across the NHL, from the Golden Knights in Vegas to fans who fill Amalie Arena to watch the Lightning host the Panthers at the Caniacs stay for the “Storm Surge” in Raleigh, NC And we’ll see at least one. more game at the Coliseum after the Islanders tied the series on Saturday.
Things are getting back to normal.
This is all we are looking for. We’re a little closer to that atmosphere, to everything we remember. The familiar, like that warm woolen sweater.
And it’s a good thing.