Late last month, the Islanders announced they would be vacating out of the only home they've ever known, the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., when their lease expired at the end of the 2014-15 season and will move into the shiny new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Islanders have struggled for many seasons to compete on and off the ice due to the limitations of the aging Coliseum. The state-of-the-art Barclays Center is expected to give them a financial boost and make them a more competitive franchise.
Penguins defenseman Dylan Reese, a native of Upper St. Clair, spent the previous three seasons with the Islanders organization. Reese, who is currently assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, talked about the move and what it could mean for the Islanders.
What was your reaction to the news?
“I’d definitely say I was a little bit surprised. Especially with a couple of years left to be playing in Nassau (Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum). To make that announcement, with what’s going on in the lockout right now … the team moving stadiums isn’t something that’s been on my mind. It’s not really on the minds of the players there at all. I’m happy that they’ve found a new home. But I’m sad for the fan base of Long Island. I think it hurts a lot of the loyal fans who have been there watching the team. Now they’re looking at another 30 minutes at least for some of the people who are east of Nassau to get to games. But at the same time, I really felt that (Islanders owner) Charles Wang, at least from what I read, he worked hard to keep the team in the city. With (Hempstead County) voting against using some tax money to build another arena, it was just becoming inevitable that the team was just going to have to leave. Keeping it 30 minutes from where it was … the team’s not in a new city in Canada. It’s still around the Island. All in all, I think it’s good for the organization."
Brooklyn is technically part of Long Island, but culturally, it's not Long Island. What are the differences?
“I haven’t spent a lot of time in Brooklyn but what people don’t realize about the New York area is that geographical area is so small but you’re talking about million and millions of people. I think people who live in Brooklyn and people who live on the Island, although they basically border each other, it’s completely different worlds. I think the vibe of where the team will be will be more city-like. More like Manhattan. Brooklyn has its own vibe in itself but it’s definitely more city-like than you experienced in Long Island. Nassau is 20 miles into Long Island. It’s a suburban community. There’s no big city on Long Island. It’s more of a community. “
What were the disadvantage (or any advantage) to playing in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum?
“It’s just old. It’s an old beat-up building. During the sold out game against the Rangers or when the Penguins come to town on a Saturday night, it’s a great building. It’s got an atmosphere. It’s loud. I was around when the (Penguins) were playing in the Civic Arena. And I think Nassau in general was a lot worse than the (Civic) Arena’s final years. It was time for a change and I think the organization recognized that. When you’re trying to get free agents as well, a lot of players look at the arena and say, ‘Is this a place I want to be playing?’”
How much do the quality of a team's facilities matter to free agents?
"Yeah I think so for sure. Especially if you’re a big main free agent and you have plenty of options and you’re picking between teams, I think it absolutely does. I can’t believe how beautiful the facilities at Consol (Energy Center) are. And even at Wilkes-Barre, the (Mohegan Sun Arena) is beautiful and the (practice) facility at Coal Street is absolutely unbelievable. Those two combined are better than what we had at the NHL on Long Island. I think it matters. I can’t see how it doesn’t."
What's your favorite memory of playing in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum?
"One time against the Rangers I had a fight and a three-point night in a rivalry game a few years ago. I think that’s probably my favorite memory."
As a player, did you have a sense that Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was home to the great Islanders teams of the early 1980s?
"I think that’s something that was starting to fade a little bit and I think that’s why it was time for a change in the organization. The team struggled when I was there and the 10 years before. Of course there is the plaques all over the arena commemorating the great players and that kind of stuff. But overall, I think it was time for a change. I think the new facility could really kick start something for the organization."
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)