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Ralph Macchio hopes Islanders prove him wrong

by Jon Lane /

NEW YORK -- On Ralph Macchio's Twitter timeline is a shot of the parking lot at Nassau Coliseum, the venerable building in the background with a close-up of a box of New York Islanders tissues.

A lifelong, die-hard fan, the actor most famous for his starring role in "The Karate Kid" was unable to attend the Islanders' regular-season finale at the Coliseum against the Columbus Blue Jackets, so he shared the photo to express his fandom, along with a hashtag drawn from a famous poem: #NothingGoldCanStay

Robert Frost's poem is featured in the 1967 novel "The Outsiders" and the 1983 film adaptation that starred Macchio and C. Thomas Howell. It was Howell's Ponyboy Curtis character who recited the poem aloud to his friend Johnny Cade (Macchio) while hiding out in an abandoned church.

Macchio saw an opportunity to link the hockey and cinematic worlds together to create his own poignant farewell to the 43-year-old Coliseum.

"'Nothing Gold Can Stay' is about youth," Macchio said. "It's about how times do change and situations do change. You just embrace those great moments. The 43 years at Nassau Coliseum will no longer be. There's the 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' but you carry that legacy on. I thought that was a quasi-smart way of tying the movie I was in together with the team that I had rooted for."

Macchio grew up in Dix Hills, N.Y., where he resides today, and his bond with the Islanders remains stronger than a bull. Hockey was actually on the periphery of Macchio's interest level during childhood, but he became hooked when he learned that the experience of a professional sporting event was 25 minutes away and witnessed the bond that existed between the Islanders and the community.

"They were the Islanders. We were Islanders," Macchio said. "It wasn't the city's team. It wasn't a corporate franchise team. It was the people's team."

Macchio's love affair with the Islanders started with the birth of their rivalry with the New York Rangers in the mid-1970s. He attended every home game of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers and witnessed Bobby Nystrom's overtime goal that won the Islanders the Stanley Cup for the first time.

"It was Saturday afternoon, May 24th, 7:11 into overtime … it's engrained," Macchio said. "I don't know my social security number as quickly as I can give you that information, so that speaks to that time."

In the present, the Islanders are preparing for the Washington Capitals, who they'll face in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; USA, TVA Sports, SN, CSN-DC). Sparked by the additions of defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk and goalie Jaroslav Halak, the Islanders went 47-28-7 (101 points) to finish in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Put on the spot, Macchio doesn't see Nassau Coliseum closing with a parade down Hempstead Turnpike, but he is hoping with all his might that he's proven wrong.

"That's a tough question, man," Macchio said. "Nothing would make me happier than that. Will they win the Stanley Cup? I guess my gut is saying they're a year away, but I want to eat these words. Talk about writing the script for the end of the era on Long Island."

After a 39-19-1 start that had them in first place in the division for much of the season, the Islanders were 8-9-6 in their final 23 games. A shootout loss to the Blue Jackets in their regular-season home finale cost them home-ice advantage in the first round, where they have a tough matchup against 53-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin and the NHL's top-ranked power play (25.3 percent).

"I like our chances against Washington, but what I don't like is Ovechkin in the same spot," Macchio said. "You can mark it with a magic marker, and he's going to score the one-timer on the power play. It's unbelievable. I like the way our penalty kill has been as of late. I do not like how good their power play is, so you have to stay out of the box.

"I like the speed the Islanders have. They're in every game. If they lose a game, it's usually by one goal. Unfortunately, lately, it's been by one goal within 10 seconds of the end of the game. That they have to lock up. They have to hold those leads in their own building."

Macchio hopes to attend Game 3 on Sunday at the Coliseum (12 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN); it may be the last game he ever sees in the old building. For Macchio, the Islanders represented "our team, your family's team, your friend's team." Though he is excited about the trajectory of the Islanders heading into their new home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season, he is sad to say good-bye to the Coliseum.

Alas, nothing gold can stay.

"There's a billion things wrong with it, but the sight lines are the best anywhere," Macchio said. "At the Coliseum you are on the ice. You're in the orchestra pit. The sound in that place in unparalleled. It's awesome.

"Let's finish out this year. Let's take it as long as we can. It's been a great run."


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