It doesn't matter if it's your first hockey game or your 100th, when you attend an Islanders game, you're automatically part of the family. The passion, tradition and pride that are core to the identity of seasoned Islanders fans are shared with every newcomer who comes to fill the parking lot tailgates and contribute to the rocking atmosphere of the sold-out barn.
On Friday evening, the Islanders hosted their first home-opener at Nassau Coliseum since Oct. 11 2014, against the Washington Capitals. With the ground official broken at the Islanders' new home at Belmont Park, Friday also marked the second last home-opener back at the Coli. With only two such parties left, Friday's game was a cultivation of the rich past of the Islanders history and a reminder of the exciting future that lies ahead.
In true Islander fashion - and with the permission of Head Coach Barry Trotz - fans assembled on the windswept concrete long before the puck dropped and crowded the parking lots outside the iconic rink. Within the sea of blue and orange animated fans, the passionate bunch shared everything from warm embraces, deep laughs, spreads of food and recalling fond memories of the past and present.
"I've never come across or heard any other fans talk about the dynamic that we have here," Roger Farano said. "There's these factions of groups that line up like you see [in the parking lot tailgating]. There's nothing like it. As long as I can remember Islanders fans have been this dedicated. It's like one big family and once you're in, you're part of the crazy."
Farano, a dedicated, retro fan, was among the busy crows filled with two fans walking around on stilts, pop-up tents, buses, and all kinds of variations of blue and orange outfits.
For Farano, his favorite childhood memories were spent inside of Nassau Coliseum. He was a devoted fan as the Isles raised all four Stanley Cups and attended each of the parades down Hempstead Turnpike. Now, 42 years after his first game, the feeling hasn't changed. The nostalgia of joining his best friends decked out in Isles gear outside at the tailgate before entering the historic barn still gives him chills. While Farano now resides in North Carolina, he remains a diehard Isles fan having chosen the middle names; Gillies, Nystrom and Potvin for each of his three daughters.
"It's something that I've carried with me all over the world," Farano said. "It's what I grew up with and what I've tried to pass onto my kids."
To top off the excitement, just before the doors opened at 5:30 p.m. the Isles game puck was specially delivered in soaring style. Fans directed their gaze to the blue skies as a hc-130 plane flew over the Coliseum. Inside of the military transport aircraft, was the precious cargo of the game puck being hand-delivered by the National Guard. Farano had served for over 20 years in the United States Army flying Chinook and Cobra helicopters with tours in Korea and Iraq.
"I've never seen that before a hockey game," Farano said in amazement. "That was pretty cool just given the history of this area and how this area used to have multiple airfields."
The excitement and anticipation for the 2019-20 season was cemented as fans packed all 13,917 seats to sell out the Coliseum. Fans were welcomed with rally bright blue towels that stated, "Our Tribe, Our Family" and enthusiastically cheered the as the Islanders battled the Capitals. While the result was not in favor of the Isles, with a 2-1 loss on the final scoreboard, nothing says the return of hockey season quite like a packed barn full of Islanders fans.