Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On The Docket: An Impromptu Trip To Nassau Coliseum For Team No. 37

Ah, yes, Nassau Coliseum. The old barn. If by "old" you mean "completely decrepit and falling apart" and by "barn" you mean "only fit for livestock". Or so I've been told. I've actually had one or two people tell me the arena is a decent place to watch hockey, but I'm going to reserve judgment either way until later tonight when I make my first ever trip to see the New York Islanders and knock yet another team off that vaunted list of 122.

What's that? Shocked that I've never seen a sports team play at home when its home is in the same metropolitan area I've spent 21 years of my life in?

Well, so am I. In fact, I find it downright mindboggling that I've never actually made a trek to Uniondale to see the Isles ply their trade or check out their home building. A rational look back on it reveals the reasons are many: a) I'm a Devils fan, b) the Devils and Rangers are both closer to where I grew up and live currently, c) it is almost impossible to get to Nassau Coliseum on mass transit.

Once I decided to do this whole "see every team in the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL" thing I knew the day of reckoning that forced a trip out to Long Island would come, but for some reason I just continued to push it further and further back -- though there have been a few near misses and close calls. If it's right there, the urgency to get moving seems to not be particularly pressing. But at long last I've decided to finally get off my rear with the help of an equally eager coworker, which will see us take the LIRR from Penn Station to Hempstead, NY, then a bus from the Hempstead Transit Station to the Coliseum -- this is after I've already taken a subway from my apartment to Penn Station. All in all, it's a tidy 90 minute trip on mass transit to get to a suburban hockey arena with little around.

But oh boy, am I excited.

The Islanders, perhaps you've noticed, are not particularly good, and haven't been for a while. Given that it seems kind of odd to me that they used to be great.

Like really great.

Seriously. There's an argument to be made that they had the greatest dynasty of any professional sports team in the last 30 years. From 1980-1983, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup four straight times, a fact that, seemingly, no Islanders fan I've come across professional will forget to mention to you. Yes, other teams have won four straight Cups or four straight championships before, but none have done it in the same age of expanded playoffs that the Islanders did. New York had four rounds of postseason jockeying to get through in order to win it all, and they did it four straight times. And very nearly a fifth.

Add it all together and the Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series in the early 1980s, a stunningly impressive achievement that is arguably not to be seen again.

Of course, those Islanders are a far cry from the current ones, who are deeply steeped in rebuilding mode currently, and as a fan of the Devils who can't avoid reading about their current season, I'm starting to find out what that's like. But it should still be an interesting game for any number of reasons, namely that a) it's a new place, and b) they're playing the Penguins and Sidney Crosby, who just might be the hottest player in the world right now.

How hot?

Well, Crosby scored two goals and tallied an assist last night against Atlanta, which gives him a scoring streak of 25 games, a stretch during which he's scored 50 points. It's a streak so long, the last person to have one longer did so for a team that no longer exists. That, since you're wondering, would be Mats Sundin, who had a 30-game streak in 1992 for the Quebec Nordiques. To make the night even more interesting, the game is going to be captured by HBO for its current Penguins/Capitals 24/7 series, which, if you have no been watching, has been spectacular television -- and I'm not just towing the line of a hockey fan on that one. It has been gripping, informative and visually arresting to see. Oh yeah, and it's on again tonight.

Now, I will admit, the show is far better on HBO where the cursing isn't censored because, well, hockey players, and their coaches, swear a lot, regardless of who's listening. Fortunately for Washington's Bruce Boudreau, the Commish has let it slide.

So put it all together and you've got an interesting TV show, a phenomenal player, and apparently a reason for me to make the arduous trek to Nassau Coliseum for the first time ever tonight. And since nothing seems to be going right for the Giants right now in any way whatsoever, I could use the distraction. If anything the extensive mass transit to Uniondale will be long enough that I probably won't remember the Giants exist by the time I get there. Until Sunday, of course, when I foolishly hope against hope that the magic will happen.

I'm a fan. I don't know any better.

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