Final Days At The Barn: Saying Goodbye to the Nassau Coliseum, Isles/Panthers, Pics & The Islanders VIP Experience

The Nassau Coliseum, which holds the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Toilet in the World

Welcome everyone to another blog here at Today is not going to be the normal New York Rangers review & recap. Instead, I will be recapping my experience in enemy territory, as I attended the Islanders vs Panthers game on Tuesday night. I promise you, this is a blog that you shouldn’t skim. I apologize in advance for taking a huge detour down memory lane, but not only is this a recap of my time at the Coliseum, it is my goodbye to the Coliseum.

As always when visiting this site, don’t forget to check out the archives on the right hand of the site for previous columns. I don’t like to rehash myself, so make sure to keep current by checking out everything in those archives. Of course, be sure not to dribble on yourself at the urinal, tip your bartender, spay & neuter your pets and NEVER, and I mean NEVER, eat any chicken from the Nassau Coliseum.

While listening to the soothing sounds of Mike Francesa’s New Yawk accent on a Tuesday afternoon, I was scrolling through Facebook. With Ranger tickets costing you your first born on some nights, my friend Garrett suggested taking in a game at the Coliseum. Along with JEFFREY, who has been previously mentioned on this site, the three of us, all diehard Ranger fans, decided to say goodbye to the Coliseum. If we don’t go back again this season, we definitely left the dump in Uniondale with a bang. 

I’ve always had a love/hate affair with the Nassau Coliseum. Throughout near 33 years of life, the Nassau Coliseum has always been a constant. It’s always been there in my lifetime. While I’ve always been a Ranger fan, the Nassau Coliseum  was a place you could go to on a school or work night, and still be home for the 10PM news. Living in Lynbrook, it’s always been a 15-20 minute shot down Peninsula Blvd for me.

The Nassau Coliseum, despite being trashier than a Staten Island landfill, has provided myself with much entertainment and stories. I’ve always been an MSG guy. I’m a Rangers fan. I was/am a WWF/WWE fan. Both the Rangers and the WWF called MSG home. While my first hockey & wrestling live experiences come at MSG, the Coliseum is where I spent most of my youth because it was so convenient.

This is where Islander VIP’s call home after eating their free food

Attending Ranger/Islander games & WWE events growing up with either my father or my friend’s father at the Nassau Coliseum were always fun. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. Going to the Coliseum was a cheaper night of entertainment. I’ve talked about this before, I just don’t know how parents do it today. Taking a family of four to MSG will cost you the same as a trip to Disney World on some nights.

In the Fall of 1996, I finally made it to high school. I was always friends with kids a grade or two older than me. Not only did it mean that they were the first ones with fake ID to buy beer, it also meant they were the first to get driver licenses. Three of my friends, one being a Ranger fan, the other two being Islander fans, were obsessed with getting autographs. They eventually got me into it as well.  During my four years of high school, I attended a ton of games at the Coliseum. At one point, we all got Islander half-season tickets. I think it cost us $7 a ticket and we sat center ice. Paying for those tickets, with the money I was making from Genovese at the time was a score!

If the Rangers weren’t on TV that night, and sometimes, even if they were, a normal Islander game day for us went like this. Pack up various pucks, trading cards and sharpies. Head out to school. Finish the school day and immediately hop in my friends car and head out to the Coliseum. We would then join the other autograph seeking degenerates, about 25-35 people at that time, some young, some old,  right by the players entrance gate at the Coliseum. If a big time player like say Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux was playing, we would go to the underground garage and wait at that ramp, since it was rare that a big time player would walk around openly.

To this day, I have several binders, some since being lost, of NHL autographs from the 1990s. While the binders are mostly Rangers & Islanders, I was able to get many big time players from that era, especially all the big names from those killer Colorado Avalanche & Detroit Redwing teams. My favorite autograph is a John Spano signed stick. Talk about a piece of infamous history.

Keep in mind for you young bucks reading this, this was a different era.  9/11 was still several years away. We carried beepers, not cell phones. AOL 2.5 Starter CD’s were all the rage. During this era, it was the last few years in America were things were just more relaxed. We didn’t know it then, but “The good old days” era was wrapping up. Fuck you Bin Laden.

Not to get too far off-topic, but it’s my blog and I’ll go off-topic if I want to, things were just different then. I’m glad to remember life before cell phones. The art of human interaction is a dying relic from yesteryear. You can’t go anywhere without people on their phones. I’m guilty of it too. Sometimes you will be with people and they will be checking a social media account and commenting/posting on your social media account, with you standing right next to them. Instead of saying, “HEY I JUST FARTED HAHAHAHAHA”, your friend will type it on your Facebook page instead. For the older crowd, the LIRR trains were full of people reading newspapers and trading NY Posts for Newsday’s with their fellow commuter. Today, people on the LIRR are fighting for outlet space so they can charge their phone. Just different times, just different times.

The lockerroom at the Barn

 I know I’m rambling a bit here down memory lane, but I’m trying to establish my bond to this building, to you, the reader.  My favorite memory of this building didn’t include anything I did.

One day, in the late 1990’s, the Avalanche were in town to take on the Islanders. This is when the Avalanche were dominant with Sakic, Foote, Forsberg, etc. Of course, the Av’s also had arguably the greatest goalie of all time, Patrick Roy. My friend Justin, who was obsessed with getting autographs and got us into the hobby, decided we needed to cut school from 6th period on and try to get Avalanche autographs after their morning skate.

I forgot where Justin got his autograph location tips, as some teams didn’t always stay at the Marriot and some teams skipped a morning skate, but I want to say he got info from a guy at this baseball card store near us. Justin was hellbent that day about getting to the Coliseum early. He never met Patrick Roy or Joe Sakic before and this was going to be the best opportunity.

After ditching the second half of the school day, we arrived at the Coliseum at 1PM. We set up camp by the ramp that led to the underground parking garage, since we got a tip about that’s the entrance/exit the Av’s were using. I was 17 years old, while Justin was 18 and about to wrap up his senior year at high school. There weren’t that many autograph seeking degenerates that day, just a few old men, who we got to know. (Boy does that sentence sound fucked up, make your priest or Michael Jackson joke to yourself if you like) Those older guys at that time would get autographs and sell them to the baseball card stores or at conventions.  As I was talking to one of the guys there, I noticed Justin was gone. Now I know what you’re thinking, old men and a fresh faced, legal teenager. Get your mind out of the gutter, this is a sports blog, not a homosexual erotica blog!

The Great Patrick Roy

 I never got to meet Patrick Roy that day. I would eventually meet him later on during the season. Realizing I wasn’t going to see Roy that day, I started wondering where Justin went. I figured he went back to his car to get something or to take a leak. As the autograph seekers started dispersing and heading out for lunch, all I could think was, “where the fuck is my ride?”

While sorting out my autograph binder, I heard a large commotion from the ramp. When I looked, there was Justin, at a full sprint with two large black guys chasing him. Justin had a hockey stick in his hand. I didn’t know it then, but it was Patrick Roy’s goalie stick! These security guards were a tad on the chunky side and Justin was a 3 sport athlete in high school. Justin booked it and was running towards the Marriot. The security guards were beat.

With no cell phones in that era, I had now lost Justin again. Eventually, I beeped him, he beeped back and we reconvened at the Marriot. Payphones were a thing back then, if you could remember. When we finally hooked back up, it turned out that Justin snuck down the ramp, into the building and weaseled his way into the visiting player’s locker room. He immediately saw Roy’s locker and grabbed his goalie stick. Listen, I don’t advocate stealing, but this was a teenager not thinking right and wanting a rare piece of memorabilia. Security got a glimpse of him, and the chase was on.

At the end of the day, Justin was in possession of Roy’s stick & had a great story to tell. Only at the Nassau Coliseum, could a kid sneak inside and steal player gear. You could never pull something like that off at MSG.

HBK vs HHH, Summerslam 2002

It’s stories like  the Roy goalie stick that will always have a special place in my heart. Sure, I never liked the Islanders and the building was a shithole, but being a Long Islander, it was just accepted that it was our shithole. MSG was the mecca, but the Coliseum was the little brother that tagged along.

I know this memory lane trip has been a long one here, and I could go on and on about classic Ranger vs Islander games. The day that Theo Fleury picked a fight with Zdeno Chara. Catching an Islander T-Shirt from one of those cannon guns and then simulating wiping my ass with it. Messier lighting up Salo. The numerous players we met. The Spano scandal.

Away from hockey, the WWF, for my generation, was something we all grew up with. In the 1990’s, we traded our yellow & red Hogan gear for black t-shirts during that WWF Attitude & nWo eras. I was and still am, a huge Shawn Michaels fan. Best worker ever in the business, bar none. The Nassau Coliseum is where he chose to return, after a near 5 year absence from the ring. On an aside, that Summerslam 2002 card was one of the best PPV’s in WWE history, google it if you don’t believe me. I’d tell you all about it, but I’m going way too long here. Just put it this way, HHH/HBK wasn’t the main event, Rock vs Brock Lesnar was.

The Coliseum was a great venue, not only for a hockey fan, but for a wrestling fan. It was a place to attend concerts. However, starting next year, the Islanders will move on, due to Nassau County politics & Charlie Wang being told he dreamt too big. The constant at the Nassau Coliseum, will be no more. The economy in Nassau County will take a hit. Not only will the Islanders be gone, but many jobs will be gone too. Even the local businesses, whether it be the deli people grab a sandwich at, the Marriot where people drink before games, etc, will all take hit with the Islanders gone.

We all know the Coliseum is a fucking dump. It is just a shame that the County couldn’t work on a deal with Wang to keep the Islanders here in a new venue.  I truly do feel bad for the loyal Islander fan.  Through my formative years, to my high school years, to my Nassau Community College years, to the present day, the Coliseum was always a fun night out.

With that all said, and wow, talk about a long preview to get to the recap of the day, here’s my report about what could perhaps be my last night at the barn, unless one of you fuckers want to give me a Rangers/Islanders ticket!

Our seats from G-19, Row 1

With nothing to do on a Tuesday night, a retired cop and two construction workers suffering through bad weather, decided to visit the barn. I was shocked to see that tickets, first row on the glass, center ice on both sides (In between the penalty boxes or behind the benches) were only going for $55. We decided to go for the Arena Box seats, that were going for $52. For your money, you got VIP access & access to “The Islanders Suite”. Since none of us have ever been VIP at an Islander game and the same ticket at MSG would’ve cost $3000, we decided to pull the trigger and become Islander VIP’s for the day.

As a customary before an Islander game, the veteran move has always been to park at the Marriot and not pay for parking. However, two black guys, who looked to be working a scam, were at the parking lot entrance, looking for $10 to get in. I’m sure we could’ve blown right by them, but I’m also sure they could’ve slashed our tires when we were gone.

We pregamed at Champions, the Marriot hotel bar. I was shocked how empty it was. It filled up a bit around 6:30 or so, but still, if you go to MSG, every bar in a 5 block radius is packed, whether it be Molly Wee’s, the Blarney Stone, Stout, Mustang Sally’s, Flying Puck, etc. Maybe Islander fans don’t drink as much as Ranger fans, because there is no public transportation back home.

How an Islander bar decorates

While drinking $20 bucks of Miller Lites, five to a bucket, as opposed to Cafe 31 in NYC’s $25 buckets for four beers, we noticed that while this was an Islander bar, it was very Ranger friendly. Autographed Ranger sticks, pictures of Messier, a Newsday covering the 1994 team all adorned the walls of the bar. YOU WOULD NEVER SEE ISLANDER PROPAGANDA/SHIT hanging in a Ranger bar. Unbelievable.

We decided to head to the game earlier than usual, to see what the VIP experience was all about. I’m a Ranger guy, and despite being in an enemy territory, I was still going to wear my Rangers hat. I fear no Islander fan!

Listen, I’m not a man of money. I haven’t had many VIP experiences in my life. My biggest VIP status is at the local bar and being given several free credits on the jukebox. However, after experiencing the Islander VIP experience, I would rather be homeless. However, how fitting is it that the Nassau Coliseum VIP experience is like everything else in that building – a dated pile of shit.

Jeff sure is enjoying the VIP experience!

Here’s the VIP experience. Perhaps because I was wearing a Rangers hat, I was discriminated against. I finally understood what Martin Luther King was talking about for all those years. Discrimination is cruel. We go to Gate 8, where you first walk in and ask the usher where our seats were, since the tickets just said “19”. No gate number, no row, no section, no nothing. We eventually found out that “19” just meant go to gate 19 & find the box to sit in. Fair enough. However, the ushers kept sending us back and forth. I must’ve walked 20 Nassau Coliseum circles, not to say that I can’t use the workout.

For a VIP experience, you don’t walk around on the bottom level to get back to your seats. You have to walk on the icy, slushy, dirty floor, as multiple Islander representatives try to sell you some bullshit at every turn. I mean, they even have 50-50’s going on. What is this, a fucking bingo hall?

The VIP experience takes place downstairs. If you ever notice, when you first walk into the main gate of the Coliseum, there is a downstairs escalator to the right side. This takes you to beer/food stands. The funniest part about this is the Islanders “TV Studio”. Stan Fischler and Shannon Hogan, who were doing the game always look good on TV. However, their digs is not an official studio set-up specifically to cover the game, ala the Rangers, it’s in the corner of a urine-infested building. I guess you can say it’s old school, but it just looked sad and old.

The luxurious Islanders studio

After seeing the TV set-up, you had to walk down another aisle way, where a few bozos in jackets validated your ticket. This golden Willy Wonka ticket gave you access to the free buffet. Keep in mind, I was fortunate to get cheap Ranger Lounge tickets on Saturday night. The spread there was amazing. Booze, bacon cheeseburgers, buffalo chicken, fresh fruit, carrots/celery/dip, freshly baked cookies, pasta, the works. I felt like a fucking King.

The best way to sum up the Islanders VIP buffet? You get better food during your stay in the drunk tank at Riker’s Island.

Let me set the scene for you. The Islanders VIP lounge is a concrete cell, set up worse than a high school cafeteria. It also seems like everyone is a VIP at the Coliseum, because the place was packed. The food is fucking disgusting. With disgusting food, I was shocked to see the bathroom set up. The mens room was a tight urine-stained lid toilet in one corner, with a free standing urinal, with no splash protector/barrier next to a sink. I’m not a homophobe or anything, I don’t have a shy kidney, but at the same time, I don’t want to take a piss at a urinal, while a guy washes his hands three inches away from my braggiole. No guys hands should ever be that close to your pecker. I mean, I know Wang owns the Islanders, but still.

We visited this VIP lounge before the game and in between periods. The reason we kept going back is we wanted to see what shit show would occur next. Put it this way, twice, once before the game and right before the first intermission started, the VIP Lounge were out of plates. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU RUN OUT OF PLATES? You just stack a thousand of them and you’re done! The ineptness was amazing!

Let’s talk about the spread itself. You are better off having a cold Hungry Man dinner or eating food out of the kitchen dumpster of the Marriot. They tried to give you courses. Seeing what the Islanders do, I was half expecting to be told I was on a hidden camera show.

Come for the hockey, stay for the salmonella

The first “spread” was salad out of a bag and pink chicken. I don’t know if it was breast cancer awareness month again, but I’m not down to eat pink chicken. No joke, I took two bites out of this chicken and was shitting my fucking brains out for the rest of the day. Granted, I spend about a third of my day in the bathroom anyway, but the food here made my durations longer.

The second spread, after the first intermission were dirty salt water dogs that you would still be burping up and tasting when the Islanders are skating at Barclay. You also got frozen mozzarella sticks. Nothing like chomping into a mozzarella stick and experiencing the power of frosted cheese.

The third spread from this lovely facility was pound cake. POUND CAKE? 50/50’s and POUND CAKE. I know the Islanders wear sweaters, but are the fans knitting them there too? In all my life, I have never attended a sporting event and said, “Do you know what would make this night more enjoyable? Stale pound cake.” They would be better off serving crushed up Milano cookies. Perhaps for the playoffs, they can give out a half eaten peach cobbler.

For $50, the Islanders VIP lounge included food poisoning from a cafeteria that made a jail cell cafeteria look like the Ritz-Carlton. Instead of advertising free salmonella, the Islanders should’ve just advertised for $50, you get to meet Stan Fischler & Shannon Hogan:

The iconic Stan Fischler

On an aside here, I’ve met Fischler several times through Ranger events. I really wish the Rangers would use him more, but it seems most of his work comes with the Devils & Islanders. He is one of the nicest guys you could meet and will always take time out to talk to you. For the people who have been following this blog, Stan settled a debate for Jeff, Garrett & I – Mike Richter is the greatest goalie in Rangers history! Garrett told Stan that I was a Talbot guy, and Fischler said he was the real deal too. LET’S GO TALBOT!

For real, the best part of this Islander VIP experience was meeting Stan Fischler. I could do without the liquid diarrhea pouring out of me from the undercooked food and various liquids dripping on me from the ceilings. I thought cruel & unusual punishment was against the law!

Plastic beer cups were even harder to keep in stock

Our view, unzoomed

 No doubt about it, for $50, our seats were amazing. We had a whole row to ourselves, a great sight line and a table in front of us. I did find it weird that the usher stored all his food on our table, but hey, this is the Nassau Coliseum.

MSG is much larger than the Coliseum. It’s also brand new. However, for all the fans dressed up as empty chairs at the Coliseum, the place could rock & was louder than a full house at the Garden at times. The fans who come out to these games are loyal, although most of the jerseys/hats I saw all looked fairly new & with the tags freshly ripped off.

I don’t know if the Panthers attendance woes is contagious & follows them on the road, but there were tons of empty seats. The good seats were really cheap. As a hockey fan, I loved it. Those same seats would’ve cost me thousands in the Garden. Your money goes a long way at the Coliseum, especially when you have to pay for medical bills after the food poisoning. As I write this, I’m still in tremor mode from that chicken.

The game itself was great, as the Panthers took a 4-2 victory. Jimmy Hayes, the brother of Kevin Hayes of the Rangers, scored two goals. Anders Lee of the Islanders also scored two goals. I should’ve asked Shannon Hogan if she knew who Anders Lee was.

Who are you again? Props to Lee for making light of the situation

 Montezuma’s Revenge, aside, I really enjoyed my night at the barn. Sure it’s the people you’re with too, but those Islander fans who care, were loud and into it. I really feel bad that those fans will lose their team and have ticket prices jacked up on them. One Islander season ticket holder we met told us his tickets are going up 60% next season. The Coliseum was the last cheap thing, the last local thing and the last great thing for a family to go to. When the Islanders bounce, and the Coliseum is stuck holding Monster Truck Rallies & Kissing Cousin Conventions, it will truly be an end of an era. I feel more fortunate to say that I got to experience it.

I’ll be back later tonight/early tomorrow with Ranger/Bruin reaction.


Sean McCaffrey
@NYCTHEMIC on the Twitter

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