The beloved Nassau Coliseum opened its doors and began its storied -  and sometimes troubled - journey 50 years ago this week. 


The then state-of-the-art facility opened its doors and hosted its first event on the night of Feb. 11, 1972.  That night the ABA’s New York Nets defeated the Pittsburgh Condors 129-121.  

The Nets - boosted by superstar ‘Dr. J.’ Julius Erving - would be one of the several sports teams that graced the Coliseum throughout the next 50 years. They ultimately pulled up stakes and moved to New Jersey in 1977.

The Coliseum was also known for its concerts, hosting hundreds of shows throughout the years.  However, Three Dog Night would hold the honor of hitting the stage first when they played the Coliseum’s first music concert on April 29, 1972.

VIDEO: Professor Nicholas Hirshon talks about the Coliseum's significance

Despite the number of events held at the venue, there is one organization that will forever be linked to the Coliseum and had its DNA fused with fans cheering wildly from the rafters - The New York Islanders.  The NHL expansion team played its first home game at The Coliseum against the Atlanta Flames on Oct. 7, 1972.  The Flames won that game 3-2 as the Islanders found their footing ahead of legendary accomplishments on the horizon.

Paul McCartney and Wings at the Nassau Coliseum, New York on May 21, 1976. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Through the late '70s and early '80s, the New York Islanders were built into an NHL powerhouse.  This status culminated with legendary dynasty status as they won four consecutive Stanley Cups in 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983.  
Legendary Islanders player Bobby Nystrom flat out called it “the best arena in the league.” 

VIDEO: A look at the past, and the future

Although the cup run ended in 1983, the team continued to be competitive and the Coliseum continued to be the center for sports and entertainment on Long Island through most of the 80s.

Despite its rich history, the Coliseum really began to show its age starting in the '90s.  Its most famous inhabitants, the Islanders, also saw a steep decline after 1993. 
The facility would spend much of the '90s and early 2000s mired in limbo, with no one able to strike a deal for a path forward.  This, coupled with the Islanders abysmal financial situation, led to some dark times for the building. 
Things seemed to really hit rock bottom in August 2011 when Nassau residents rejected a plan by then-owner Charles Wang for a new arena and development surrounding the venue.  

Unable to secure a new arena, Wang announced that the team was moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-2016 season.  
The team had been steadily building success, culminating with a playoff appearance against the Washington Capitals. Their last game before the move took place on April 25, 2015, with a 3-1 win against Washington.  They would go on to lose Game 7 on the road.

The Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 24, 2012 (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Following a show by Billy Joel on August 4, 2015, the Coliseum shut down for an 18-month renovation with a $180 million price tag. 
Once reopened, Long Island’s own Joel was again on hand to usher in a new era for the Coliseum.
“It’s a big honor,” Joel told News 12’s Elisa DiStefano before the show. 

Billy Joel performs in concert for the grand re-opening of the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP, graphics by Rocco Marrongelli/News 12)

While good on paper, many Islanders fans bemoaned the travel and lack of atmosphere at the Barclays Center.  
That all changed in the 2018-19 season when the Islanders began splitting their schedule between Barclays Center and the Coliseum, returning home on Dec. 1, 2018 to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The split would continue, except for the COVID bubble, until the 2020-2021 season when it was announced they were back at the Coliseum full time ahead of their move to the brand-new UBS Arena.
The Islanders said a proper goodbye to the Coliseum when Anthony Beauvillier scored in sudden death OT to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning and force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup semifinals.  Although the Islanders would lose that Game 7, the excitement and emotion of that final goal will live on in Coliseum history. 

New York Islanders' Mathew Barzal celebrates with Anthony Beauvillier after Beauvillier scored a goal during the overtime period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)(AP Photo/Ed Bailey)

In the years after the renovation, the Coliseum continues to be a destination for music acts and events on Long Island. Throughout all the ups and down, ‘The Old Barn’ continues to tell its story on Long Island. 

An overhead view of the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

Below is News 12's original coverage of the Islanders' move from the Nassau Coliseum to the UBS arena.


The Islanders dominated the NHL in the early 1980s: four consecutive Stanley Cups, 19 straight playoff series wins and a dominant home ice advantage at Nassau Coliseum.
Those dynasty players recall the Coliseum as a basic arena - but loud with the fans almost on top of the players.

"Best arena in the league," recalls "Mr. Islander" Bob Nystrom. "Fans are close and it's loud - you just can't ask for anything more."

VIDEO: 'The best arena in the league.' Bob Nystrom reflects on Nassau Coliseum

"The hair on the back of my neck was standing up," Hall of Famer Clark Gillies says of Game 6 from that first Stanley Cup run.

VIDEO: 'A warm place in all of our hearts.' Clark Gillies remembers the Coliseum

Six years ago, Islanders fans watched the team move to Brooklyn - temporarily. Now as they get ready to leave the Coliseum once again, there's a different feel about the Islanders' new home in Belmont. Gillies and Nystrom give their blessing to the UBS Arena at Belmont.

Best arena in the league. Fans are close and it's loud - you just can't ask for anything more.

"The UBS Arena at Belmont is absolutely magnificent," says Gillies. "It's going to be an event taking your family to that place."

PHOTOS: Memories from the Nassau Coliseum

VIDEO: Dynasty Islanders dominate on home ice


Islanders captain Denis Potvin reaches out to touch the Stanley Cup trophy as Bryan Trottier looks on after the Islanders won the Stanley Cup at Nassau Coliseum on May 24, 1980. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)


Nassau Coliseum was the place to be in the 1980s, but some lean years followed that weren't as prosperous - but things would begin to change at the turn of the millennium.

"It wasn't just cold - it was desolate and it was depressing in every sense of the word," longtime play-by-play announcer Howie Rose says of those dark years in the late '90s.

"When there's no fans, not many fans anyway, and you look up and you look at all those banners up there - it's hard to believe that could happen," says former Islanders captain Michael Peca.

VIDEO: History & tradition - Michael Peca reflects on the Coliseum

But the Barn began to rock again in the 2000s as a new iteration of Islanders returned to the playoffs.

"To go from an arena in the late '90s, which wasn't the busiest venue, to rocking it the way we did in the early 2000s - you know, you can feel it," recalls former Islanders grinder Steve Webb.

In 2002, the entire league could feel the roaring series between the Islanders and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

To go from an arena in the late ‘90s, which wasn't the busiest venue, to rocking it the way we did in the early 2000s - you know, you can feel it.

"I'm surprised [the Nassau Coliseum]  withstood all the vibrations from the noise and the fans," says Peca.

"You really felt like you might be wearing the ceiling in the next few minutes, because you just felt like it was going to collapse," jokes Rose.

Game 3 of that Toronto series saw Webb take on the Maple Leafs - all by himself.

"Things were pretty surreal that day," remembers Webb. "Being a fourth-liner and having the impact that you have, and the fans appreciated it."

VIDEO: Steve Webb reflects on the connection with fans at the Coliseum

"Webby played the game like there was no puck on the ice," says Peca. "I think the opponents knew that and they paid the price regardless."

As the Islanders get set for Belmont, they hope to bring some of that Coliseum charm and grit to the new arena.

VIDEO: Former coach Jack Capuano recalls Coliseum atmosphere

VIDEO: The Barn rocks again as Isles return to playoffs in the 2000s

Islanders grinder Steve Webb lays a hit on Mathias Johansson on Nov. 4, 2002 at Nassau Coliseum. The fourth-liner became a beloved member of the Islanders as they returned to the playoffs in the new millennium. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)




Paul Cartier began his run as the Islanders organist in 1979, just as the Islanders' Stanley Cup run was starting. His music has been part of the Coliseum ambiance ever since.

"This is home, and I'm sure any old time Islander fan will tell you the same thing," he says.

Cartier's keystrokes have helped bring life to the Barn. He says the fans aren't just an audience - they're family. And the Coliseum, warts and all, is his Carnegie Hall.

"Some people say it's a dump, but what do they say? It's our dump," he says.

Cartier says nobody can take away the Nassau Coliseum memories from the Islanders faithful. 

"If you're here and a true hockey fan, and that's all you're worried about, there's no better building to watch a professional hockey game," he says.

VIDEO: Longtime organist echoes the Barn's feelings of home

Longtime Islanders organist at Nassau Coliseum Paul Cartier (Dennis DaSilva)


Nassau Coliseum is beloved by fans for its sightlines. And those sightlines have offered Islanders broadcasters a unique view and a different perspective for the on-ice action.

As the longest tenured play-by-play man in team history, Howie Rose's calls are etched into the history of the Islanders and the Coliseum.

"The calls, frankly, are better for the excitement in the crowd," Rose says.

VIDEO: Howie Rose looks back at the Islanders' time at the Nassau Coliseum

He called the Coliseum his home away from home, for better or worse. "There can be some revisionist history about the 'charm' of the Coliseum - there was never anything charming about it other than over the years when it became kind of your cute old grandfather."        

The calls, frankly, are better for the excitement in the crowd.

Rose says his favorite Coliseum call was actually not the famed Shawn Bates playoff penalty shot - it was the night the Islanders clinched a playoff spot in 2002.

"It was very emotional for me," says Rose. "That's what I had hoped for when I signed on."

Brendan Burke took over for Rose in 2016, bringing a new sound to Islanders games as the Coliseum underwent physical changes.

Burke didn't have much Coliseum experience when he took on the job.

"Before I got the job, the only experience I had at Nassau Coliseum was actually a Barenaked Ladies concert in 1999," says Burke.

VIDEO: Islanders announcer Brendan Burke shares thoughts on the Coliseum

But now he sees the unique setting the Coliseum provides for a broadcaster.

"From my vantagepoint, the most unique thing is my vantagepoint," says Burke. "It's a great spot to call a game from. You don't normally get this close to the action. I think that's the thing that will stick with you as being the one thing that you don't really want to let go of, is this small intimate environment because you're not going to ever see it again."

VIDEO:  Isles’ home provides unique setting for team’s broadcasters

The Islanders and Detroit Red Wings line up on the ice at Nassau Coliseum in 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)


In a season full of goodbyes at the Coliseum, the Islander's last regular-season game was a big one. They beat the Devils 5-1 in what was the Isles' 1,737th game at the Old Barn.

"When the playoffs start, we don't know when it's going to end. So, this is really the finale," said Jackie Senn, a fan since the team's glory years, about why she needed to be at the game.

Some fans compare the Coliseum to a second home. And for those who don't have tickets for the playoffs, this game was a chance to say goodbye.

"It's like the end of an era, it's moving on," one fan shared.

Northport's Vicky Dee has some grand hopes though for a little more action at the Coliseum. And she's not alone.

"I would love to close out this building with a Stanley Cup," an emotional Dee said.

VIDEO: Islanders win final regular season game at the Coliseum amid goodbyes

The Islanders celebrate after winning the team's last regular season game at Nassau Coliseum. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


Nassau Coliseum has been home ice for the Islanders, but it has just been home for many longtime season ticket holders.

A few of those Islanders faithful shared what they'll miss about the Coliseum once the Islanders move to Belmont. For many, coming to see the Islanders provided an escape from reality. 

"I grew up in this building," says Patrick "Sign Guy" Dowd. "My daughters grew up here, my wife...probably most of Long Island grew up here."

Karen Sauvigne's family has had Islanders tickets since the 1970s. 

"We've had tickets since '73," she says. "I grew up in this building. My children have now grown up in this building."

Even with the Coliseum's shortcomings as far as amenities or the years without upgrades, it's been a place Islanders fans felt was their own.

"This was our home. I don't care if people didnt like it. We liked it," says Gean Giambalvo, season ticket holder since 1987. "Everyone took pride this was their building. This was their dump. It's everything. It's the smell of this place. The crappy paint job. I tried to convince my fiance to have my wedding here. I was vetoed, but this place has a special place in my heart."

This final goodbye is bittersweet for many, looking back on decades of personal memories.

"Everything about this building has a history, and the history that I've had with it in my family has been part of our life," says Dowd. "And now we're about to say a final goodbye."

"It's like moving out of your first house, you'll always remember it," says Giambalvo. "It's sad, but you know what - all things do come to an end. You have the memories that we'll never forget, but we'll create new ones."

"It's going to be tough to say goodbye because I know we're not coming back," says Sauvigne. 

VIDEO: Season ticket holders share what they'll miss about the Coliseum

Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Project Credits:

Charles Bucci: Graphics, News 12 Long Island

Rob Del Muro: Producer, News 12 Long Island Sports

Dave Dodds: Photojournalist and Producer, News 12 Long Island Sports

Brian Heyman: Managing Editor, News 12 Digital

Kevin Maher: Executive Producer and Reporter, News 12 Long Island Sports

Rocco Marrongelli: Graphics, News 12 Digital

Frank Pokorney: Assistant News Director, News 12 Digital 

Tom Schnaars: Photojournalist, News 12 Long Island Sports

Jamie Stuart: Reporter and Producer, News 12 Long Island Sports

Chris Vaccaro: VP, News 12 Digital