a, Sports

Why the Long Island?

nytimes.com

 

As an American, the concept of Thanksgiving in October has always seemed a bit odd. Instead of coming home to Long Island for nearly a week at the end of November to see all of my family and friends at once, I return for only three days when everyone is busy making preparations for fall and when turkeys aren’t even on sale (or readily available) at most grocery stores.

The worst part about not being home for American Thanksgiving, however, is missing football. Perhaps this is why it made sense to my father that if I couldn’t be home on American Thanksgiving and watch American football, we would instead go to the Islanders’ home opener every year on Canadian Thanksgiving and watch a Canadian sport. 

Despite what you may think, going to see a game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is not that bad. The Coliseum itself looks exactly like what you would expect from an arena. It was built long enough ago that my father saw Led Zeppelin there in the flesh; it’s a bit past its prime, but still has more structural integrity than any bridge in Montreal. Sure, the seats are probably not as wide as they should be for the modern fan, but that’s common in old arenas. While some of the nose-bleed seats (our favourite section) have limited sightlines, that’s more than compensated for by the fact that tickets are under $40 and you can still see everything that happens on the ice. 

For a team that my Canadian friends tell me no one goes to see, the Coliseum was packed. I counted about seven open seats during the first period. Fans were energized and excited for the start of a new season, despite the fact that the game was against a weak Florida Panthers team. 

Fans in New York are exactly as we are rumoured to be. When Rick DiPietro’s name was announced for the first time this season, he was greeted with a chorus of boos. Say what you will about us, but at least we’re honest, and we hope DiPietro and the upper levels of management get the message that hiring a sack of potatoes to play goaltender would probably be cheaper and more effective.

The game itself was great. Even though the Islanders were shut down in the first period and looked as though they didn’t know the regular season had started, the crowd remained energized and engaged for most of the game. Occasionally I heard quips from the people around me about how in three years the team would move away and how the drive up to Quebec City would be difficult. Most likely as a result of years of suffering, Islanders fans have realized that we don’t have a front office or a team – all we have is each other and our wisecracks. 

Some fans took comfort in the fact that the Islanders do have the most over-paid, most scantily clad snow shovelers in the league in the “Ice Girls.” These girls, who someone once described as “the girls who didn’t quite make the Olympic ice-skating team,” were surely there to draw attention away from the team on the ice. They did so with little success. 

As the game wound down and people decided that their time would be better spent fighting to get out of the parking lot early than watching the game, I was sad. The Islanders probably need a better roster and a better arena, but for a team that has had relatively little success over the past 30 years, they have a tremendously loyal and devoted fan base.That is something to be valued by any team. 

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