By Arnie Leshin
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum had been home to the New York Islanders since 1972. It is in decay now as an antiquated crumbling building in Uniondale Long Island. Still, it spent $170 million dollars to give the arena a new coat of paint to that the Isles could play a Stanley Cub series there last year.
But now, as the Islanders move into game two of their restarted playoff season with an opening 4-2 Stanley Cup comeback win Tuesday over the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, they look ahead to the new arena being built for them right next to Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Hopefully, it will be ready for the 2021-2022 season.
Temporarily named the Belmont Park project, the 1.3 billion project is now officially the UBSArena that will seat 19,000, is a multi-event indoor facility spread over 43 acres right next to the Belmont Park Racetrack where Mike Smith rode victorious Justify to the Belmont Stakes start of the rescheduled Triple Crown.
Last year, the Islanders spent their time on the ice with the games played at the Nassau Coliseum and half at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Nassau Coliseum as fun for them, but Barclays Center where the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets also play, was a nightmare. The fans there didn’t provide the excitement, the support, the capacity crowds that Nassau Coliseum did for its team playing in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference.
Nassau Coliseum, which is seven miles from the borough of Queens, was always a fun place for the Isles, but the NHL reports that it does not qualify anymore as a major league facility, which is one of the reasons that the Islanders split last season in two different areas of New York after initially playing 2015-16 at Barclays.
So now the wait is on to welcome the new arena situated right alongside Belmont Park as the Islanders take the ice tonight in game two versus Washington in Toronto. It’s a best 4-of-7 for all the clubs that made it to the quarterfinals. New York seeded sixth, the Capitals third.
As for the rising new arena, it is recognized as a beacon of strength, resilience and achievement. It is expected to provide boutique hospitality that includes live entertainment, cocktail lounges and restaurants.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the East also has the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers up 2-0 over the 8th-seeded Montreal Canadiens following 1-0 and 2-1 squeakers in Toronto. In Vancouver, the 3rd-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning and 7th-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets are all even at 1-1 after Tampa Bay won the marathon 5-overtime game 3-2, and Columbus answered back with a 3-1 win in game two. They meet against Saturday.
Also in Vancouver, it was the 4th-seeded Boston Bruins forced into a 1-1 tie with the 5th-seeded Carolina Hurricanes when the won game one 4-3, but saw the Canes come back for a 3-2 triumph in game two.
The top seed in the Western Conference is Las Vegas and it holds a 2-0 lead in game over the 8th-seeded Chicago BlackHawksafter 4-1 and 4-3 victories, the second one in overtime. They go at it again on Saturday at Edmonton Alberta. The second seed is the Colorado Avalanche, and it opened with a 3-0 run in the third period over the 7th-seeded Arizona Coyotes, with the two meeting again Friday and Saturday at Edmonton Alberta.
Also in the West, the 3rd-seeded Dallas Stars won game one, 3-2, over the 6th-seeded Calgary Flames, then dropped game two, 4-3, on Thursday. They face off next on Friday at Edmonton Alberta. Winding up the quarters, the 5th-seeded Vancouver Canucks surprised the 4th-seeded St. Louis Blues, 5-2 in game one, and they clash again tonight at Edmonton Alberta.
As for the Islanders, they have played in five Stanley Cup finals since 1980, with a dynasty blooming when they won the Cup fourth-straight times in 1980, 81, 82, and 83, and lost once before that. When the brand-new Nassau Coliseum was built in 1972, the emerging World Hockey League wanted it to be the home ice of its New York Raiders, but it was not accepted by the NHL as a major league franchise. Instead, the NHL approved the placing of its New York team there and named it the Islanders, with the Ducks the other choice name.
Now the Isles and their fans await the new arena and the certainty of not traveling to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center again.