When you are young you tend to love a lot of things. You love your mom, your dad, your stuffed animals, your toys and pretty much anything you can get your hands on. Unfortunately, as we get older, we love less and less things, but we love them intensely. For so many Long Islanders that love affair exists with the only professional sports team Long Island could call their own, the New York Islanders. Just like all those old toys, the time has come to place the memories at the bottom of the toy chest.
As the Islanders make the move into Brooklyn, they leave us with one of the best years in recent memory. The Old Barn was rocking seemingly every night and the team fed off of that energy. Sound had feel, and the memories of the eighties returned. Bedlam is the word I would use to describe the atmosphere that was inside the place. Cheap tickets and some sodas in the parking lot will do that to a crowd. During some of the bad years there were nights where we were literally trading toys in for tickets. I don’t know if it was the beers or the cheap seats as much as it was the pride in their team that made that crowd the best in hockey. Every man needs something to take pride in. Whether it be his family or his job, everyone needs to be passionate about something. For those of us with no significant other or job paying more than a few bucks an hour, the Islanders received our pride. They were like that old blanket you had when you were a kid. That blanket was ripped into pieces, smelly and chewed, but you still could not let it go. Of course there were probably better blankets out there but that blanket was yours. Just like the Islanders are ours. It did not matter that The Barn had narrow hallways and throw up stained seats. It did not matter that the chairs creaked and it felt like the place could collapse at any minute. It was ours, and it belonged to Long Island.
I was born and raised as an Islander fan. I was fortunate enough to have the Yankees and Giants as my other favorite teams because the Islanders did not bring us 90’s kids much success. Even through those tough times, the Coliseum remained my favorite venue. My grandpa took me to games from the time I knew what hockey was until the day he died in September of 2002. The Islanders are something that will always connect me to him. After he passed, it became something I did with my dad. Those Peca years brought a lot of great memories for he and I as those are some nights I will never forget. Then it got to the days where I was old enough to go on my own. Hanging out with the boys in the lot and being one of 16,000 and on some nights one of only a handful of people in that place.
It is our natural tendency as human beings to root for the underdog. Nobody wants to see the hare beat the tortoise, or Goliath slay David. We cheer harder for the unexpected and for the misfit toys. We root for them because it gives us hope that if they can do it, maybe we can too. Maybe we can overcome some obstacle in our life and achieve greatness. The Islanders flashed some signs of greatness this year, but hopefully a new building and a young team will take us to the pinnacle. However, it does not make it hurt any less. One of the hardest things to do in life is to let go. Put that old stuffed animal in the bottom of the toy chest and move on. Just don’t forget to take it out every once in a while, look at it and remember the joy that it brought you.
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Featured Image via Paul J. Bereswill