Just like that hockey is back. It’s the pessimism in me that paints a bleak picture of the future, but this was the beginning of the end for the Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
There are at least 105 more home games for the Islanders in Nassau County through the 2015-2016 when the Orange and Blue faithful will head west to Brooklyn and watch hockey at the Barclays Center. It’s a far cry from the aged confines of the Coliseum, which was sold out Saturday night for the season opener as 16,170 fans saw the Islanders lose to the Devils, 2-1.
Aside from the opening faceoff and usual jittery emotions of a home opener, the restless crowd, who has waited since the end of the 2011-12 season to watch hockey thanks to the lockout, sat mildly enthused.
Not until Travis Hamonic beat Martin Brodeur on a shot 7:12 into the third period did the Coliseum crowd roar as they have inside these walls since 1972. This is not your father’s Islanders, but when 16,000-plus (okay, maybe some were Devils fans) stand and cheer with the goal horn blasting, and follow the eruption with a “Let’s Go Islanders!” chant, goose bumps ensue.
And of course in modern Islanders fashion, they squandered the momentum and allowed New Jersey to take the lead on a goal from David Clarkson 1:15 later.
“We have to find a way to win because it’s a shortened season,” said Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov, “and every game counts a little bit more.”
Islanders coach Jack Capuano was not on the bench due to medical issues, according to the team. Doug Weight took his place and called the shots.
“We believe in this team,” Weight said. “We see a lot of things we like. We came up short. It’s one game. The good thing about this 48-game schedule is we’ll be working a lot. It’s great to be back.”
*Editorial note: We’ll be covering the Islanders throughout this shortened season and beyond as the franchise is engrossed in a tumultuous ordeal with leaving Nassau County and starting fresh in Brooklyn.