A return to Fort Neverlose might not be so far-fetched of a hope from the most optimistic of New York Islanders fans.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Jim Baumbach of Newsday on Tuesday that the league “is open” to the Islanders returning back to the Nassau Coliseum to play their home games while their new arena at Belmont Park is being built.
The Islanders were officially awarded the 43 acres of land in Elmont, NY on Dec. 20 that will soon bring a difficult stay at the Barclays Center to an end. At that very same press conference in which the winning bid was announced, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that the state has appealed to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for the Islanders to head back to the Coliseum.
With ground expected to be broken sometime in the spring of this year, the new arena likely will not be finished until the 2020-2021 season. That could leave the Islanders temporarily homeless for one season if they officially opt out of their 25-year lease with the Barclays Center following the 2018-19 season.
That’s where the Coliseum, the team’s home from 1972-2015, comes in.
“I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility,” Daly told Baumbach.
Unable to renovate the crumbling arena in Uniondale, NY that offered some of the best sightlines in the entire NHL, the Islanders were forced to move away from the epicenter of their fan base in Nassau County on Long Island following the 2014-15 season for Brooklyn.
Since the team moved, the town of Hempstead was able to renovate the Coliseum, updating the venue without expanding the actual structure. However, they decreased the capacity to around 13,000 seats for hockey games, which is not ideal for NHL franchises. It’s the main reason why a permanent move to the Coliseum was never much more than a pipe dream.
But with the Islanders’ attendance numbers slacking mightily in Brooklyn — averaging a league-worst 11,789 fans per game — the Coliseum, which could add temporary seating to fit even more fans, would provide a much better temporary option for the team and their fans, who have made it abundantly clear that they will not make the trek out to Kings County.