Each time the New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup — in four consecutive seasons from 1980 to 1983 — Frank Borrelli Jr., the owner of Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant in East Meadow, stood with his family on the roof of his business, throwing confetti on participants in the celebratory parade.
“Tens of thousands of people were in the streets, clapping and cheering,” Borrelli recalled. “I’m looking forward to what happens now.”
This year, he said, he believes history may repeat itself. The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum, recently announced that if the Islanders qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, they will play their first-round home games in Uniondale. If the team makes it beyond the first round, however, all further home games will take place at Barclays Center.
The National Hockey League confirmed the agreement after consultation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to an Islanders press release.
The public announcement came on Feb. 15 — just 11 days after Nassau County Executive Laura Curran wrote to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman asking that the Coliseum be considered for the postseason.
“I was so excited that Gary Bettman agreed . . . the announcement really made my day after a pretty tough week,” Curran said. “Amazon’s not coming, but the Islanders are staying, and that’s fantastic news. It’s also good for our self-respect as a county. The Islanders belong in the heart of the county, and that’s at the Coliseum.”
The team first announced that it would return to the Coliseum part-time in January 2018. Starting last fall, it has divided its home games between Barclay’s and the Coliseum, and plans to continue doing so until its new arena at Belmont Park is built in 2021. The team will end the 2018-19 season having played 21 games at the Coliseum, and will host 48 more there over the next two seasons.
With the success the team has had this year, Borrelli said he has seen an influx of customers, including fans and players. “It’s good that they’re [back home] and we definitely see the difference,” he said, noting that the added excitement has brought in older fans, both local and from outside Nassau County, who had stopped following the team during previous years’ slumps. “We’re seeing a lot of familiar faces from the ’80s, the ’90s and the early 2000s.”
One excited fan is Matthew Corrado, of East Rockaway. “I’m so pumped the NHL made this decision,” he wrote in a text to the Herald. “It helps build back the L.I. vibe, and brings us back to our roots. There’s something special about that place, and there’s something special about this team this year. Should make for an epic environment during first round of playoffs.”
Neither Islanders Coach Barry Trotz nor the team’s president and general manager, Lou Lamoriello, had responded to a request for comment by press time.