Bryan Trottier was the first one to point it out, but the date of the New York Islanders groundbreaking at Belmont Park was a good omen - at least in alumni eyes.
The date - 9/23/19 - contained auspicious numbers for the Islanders, as most - fans will recognize - they represent the retired numbers of Clark Gillies (9), Bobby Nystrom (23) and Trottier (19). Hockey players are a notoriously superstitious bunch, but the good vibes the alumni shared as they toured the site of the new arena during alumni weekend came from much more than the coincidence.
Well, arena may be a stretch because as at this point the site is mostly an impressive rink-shaped hole in the ground. But Co-owner Jon Ledecky felt the men who skated in the old barn should be some of the first to see the site of the new barn, so he led the alumni on a tour of the site.
The alumni were all impressed. Trottier, the Islanders' original Trots, said, "It's extremely exciting for us and for the fans. It's going to be state of the art - you can feel the energy and passion the entire ownership group has for this. To hear about the new technology that's going to be used is just wonderful. It's something everyone will be proud of. It's going to be a home - the future home of the New York Islanders. As alumni, we'll be just as proud as the players who'll play in it."
Video: Bryan Trottier on Alumni Weekend & Belmont Park Arena
Before the trip to Belmont, Hank Abate, President of Oak View Group Facilities, one of the three companies involved in the development of the arena, gave the alumni a rundown on all the things fans can look forward to at the new arena. It promises to be quite a place - the first third generation arena, incorporating all the latest in modern technology as well as fantastic amenities. In fact, when ex-captain Patrick Flatley heard there would be six or seven bars in the arena, he said he and his fellow alumni "all started planning our comebacks!"
While overlooking the site, Ledecky explained the hiring policy for the construction, which includes using local companies first and hiring a minimum of 30% women or minority owned businesses and 6% disabled veterans. Massive job training will take place, and as many as 10,000 people will be employed.
The Islanders management further explained there is plenty of parking, and public transportation to Belmont. After all, when the sport of kings was in its heyday, it was not unusual for tens of thousands of fans to flock to Belmont every weekend. On top of that, additional parking will be added and the LIRR has agreed to add additional service, so however fans choose to get there and wherever they choose to come from, it will be easy.
"This will be fantastic for folks on the Island and in the Belmont area," Nystrom said. "The fans have been back and forth, and it will be great for them to have home right here."
Video: Denis Potvin on Alumni Weekend and Belmont Park Arena
The arena will be one of a kind - situated in a park-like environment - and with the planned addition of a retail center and a hotel, it should totally revitalize the area. In fact, Ledecky added, the Islanders have already doubled the number of season ticket members from last year. It appears people want to make sure they get their choice of seats in the new arena.
That includes the alumni. Cup dynasty captain Denis Potvin said the collaboration involved in a project like this reminded him of why he felt his Islander teams did so well: teamwork. Recalling his playing days in Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, he said, "there was a presence that seeped into that building," and he hopes "the current Islanders can create that in Belmont."
And after seeing the site for himself, Potvin gave his captain's seal of approval.
"It's going to be a great building, we know that. It's fabulous - a win-win for everyone on Long Island - that being the key, that it's back on Long Island.