A few days ago, a friend and former coworker who has been a life-long fan of the New York Islanders approached me. He asked if I would submit to an interview to talk about the performances this season by the Nashville Predators and Islanders in anticipation of the Preds’ last trip to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This was the result:
Article: Pete Weber's Favorite Memories of Nassau Coliseum on Insidetheislanders.com. Audio: Weber at Nassau Coliseum highlights.
I should add that “Scoreboard Steve” had another obsession. Her name was Linda Fratianne.
Years ago, when Bob Miller and I were representing Los Angeles, Linda’s hometown, I think Steve gave us more details than some other broadcasters. I believe he was hoping we could help arrange a meeting with her.
However, I digress. There were many more memories that came back to me after participating in the interview.
My first time at the Coliseum came in December of 1972 – and it was for a basketball game: the ABA’s New York Nets (before they landed Doctor J. from the Virginia Squires) against the Utah Stars. They had Jim Chones, Billy “The Whopper” Paultz, Brian Taylor and John Roche. The Nets lost that one to Zelmo Beaty and company, and though the Islanders (along with Terry Crisp) had begun play that season, the building did not yet have a big scoreboard.
I had just finished my senior year in college when I saw that Nets game. I would not return to the Coliseum until 1978, when I went to work for the Los Angeles Kings, as the Islanders were beginning their emergence as a force in the National Hockey League.
That Islanders team won the President’s Trophy with 116 points, a point in front of the Montreal Canadiens. That season, the Canadiens wrapped up their fourth-consecutive Stanley Cup championship. The Islanders swept Chicago, and then lost in six games to the Rangers in the semifinals.
In 1980, the Islanders began their run to four-consecutive Stanley Cup titles and five-straight trips to the Cup Final. (I don’t think any team will ever win 19-consecutive playoff series again!) The Kings and Islanders met four times that season, the Islanders went 3-1-1 in the regular season and 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs. Their season ended in Game 6 of the Cup Final, as Eric Nystrom’s father, Bob, tipped in a pass from John Tonelli to win the Islanders’ first title in overtime.
During those four trips to the Coliseum that season, I got to meet so many great people. Fellow Notre Dame alumnus Tim Ryan was doing the TV play-by-play with ex-Bruin and Islander Eddie Westfall, handling the color. Westfall would handle that job through 1998, spending 14 seasons with another good friend, Jiggs McDonald.
Preceding Westfall was a WABC disk jockey, who wanted to get full-time into sports. That was George Michael. George’s dream was realized a few years later, as George would launch his Sports Machine:
That show did all right, airing in syndication from 1984 through 1997.
During that time, I spent a lot of time comparing notes with the Islanders broadcast host, Stan “the Maven” Fischler. Stan saw to it that I was introduced in the Coliseum pressroom to the team’s media consultant, former New York Herald-American baseball writer, Barney Kremenko.
For me, he always had a great story about his days as a baseball writer, covering Willie Mays and the Giants at the Polo Grounds, and the battles over the years with the Dodgers.
During that 1980 regular season, we did all of the Islanders games on television back to Los Angeles. For the post-game, I would go down to the penalty box and pick up a microphone and communication box so I could hear Bob Miller in the booth. We had a signal worked out with Islanders PR Man Hawley Chester III to request whom to send out to me for the interview.
Billy Harris had a great game that night, so I signaled for him. So I am in the on-camera position, facing upstairs before my guest arrives. Bob threw it to me. My microphone cable was very short, so I could not turn around to see who was skating toward me. I then made a huge mistake. I assumed I was getting the player I requested.
I began to introduce Billy Harris, running down his game that night, including the night he had enjoyed on the penalty kill. The skates stopped as I finished, I turned to my right having already asked the question of Billy. Problem was – Billy was on the Islanders’ telecast and they had sent me Wayne Merrick! We straightened that out in short order, but my face was in living-color red!
Those are the sorts of memories that will remain with me as the Preds play their last of nine games on Long Island. I’m certain another set of stories will be collected beginning next season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.