A View from the Roost (Downstate Edition)

By Jon

What’s left to be said about Long Island? The Roost’s own Rich posted a wonderful summary of “downstate scum” (his words) over on his more vulgar alter-ego, The Buffalo Cane. Seeing that I simply can’t compete with his utterly astounding visual aids, I will let his words speak for me and my general feelings on Long Island. Let’s just say that I would much rather cruise around the 990 surrounded by a Pinto and a Kia than find myself on the Long Island Expressway between a Porsche and BMW that are so abundant in that part of the state.

Naturally, when I made my inaugural trip to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the Island for Saturday’s Sabres/Islanders match-up, I wasn’t expecting much. For the last two seasons, I have been privileged to be a part of sold-out crowds in the middle of Downtown Buffalo, part of an area that lives and dies with it’s team. The atmosphere couldn’t even be the least bit similar, right? Surprisingly, I walked away impressed with the Islanders faithful.

To be fair, they had a lot of things working in their favor. It was the home opener at the Coliseum, and if you can’t get your fan-base excited for the home opener, you should relocate. The Isles fans also wanted revenge against the Sabs for ousting them in the playoffs, and were riding high after an opening night win on the road. Nevertheless, the building was electric throughout the night. One well-versed in overused sports cliches might say that there was a “playoff atmosphere” in the building. My section seemed to be filled with an older crowd, and lots of families. Everyone seemed rather friendly, though I didn’t really associate much with any of them. That’s not to say that there weren’t your typical drunken douchebags in attendence, as there was a decent sized group of Isles and Sabres fans verbally going at it in the parking lot after the game, but I felt the crowd was generally respectful.

The fans were together on their chants and cheers all night long. Every big save from DiPietro, and there were many, resulted in a “DP” chant, with seemingly every Isles fan in attendance participating. They were incredibly loud after goals, but the biggest cheer of the night came when the out-of-town scoreboard showed up on the Jumbotron, to my surprise. The Rangers were down 2-0 in the third, and it sent everyone into a euphoric state. There is no way to understand how much these people hate the Rangers other than to see it for yourself and take part in a verse of “If you know the Rangers suck, clap your hands,” defiling everyone’s favorite childhood song in the process. That being said, a Rangers/Isles game on the Island has made my “List of Sporting Events to See Live Before I Die” (another post, another day.)

A large group of Sabres fans, probably a dozen of them, were seated in the top row, one section to my left. After the first goal, I heard someone behind me mutter, “Thank god we sat in the Buffalo section tonight.” For my first time venturing into enemy territory for a game, I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hear that. It made you feel as if your presence was being felt.

While I thought the fans were impressive, I thought the Coliseum was a piece of trash. I was located in section 324, which was on the same side as the player’s benches, and right on the blueline of the Sabres’ shoot twice zone. I was two rows from the top of the building, quite literally. As Erika, a friend of the Roost, so eloquently stated, I felt like I was in the batcave. There was an overhang from the top of the building in my sightline, and while it didn’t interfere with my view of the ice, it certainly gave you a certain sense of claustrophobia, and kind of cut you out from the rest of the crowd. Sound from my section also seemed to reflect off of it, making it seem a bit louder than it actually was. You could literally touch the ceiling from the top row, something that was incredibly strange to me since the only hockey games I have seen from the top row were in HSBC, where the roof seems miles over your head. If we had this arena in Buffalo, I would be incredibly embarrassed. It’s just a bad place to see a hockey game, and leaves an awful impression on out-of-towners, and left me appreciating our arena that much more.

The outcome of the game, as we all know, left something to be desired. It’s never fun to see your team lose, but I thought it was an exciting, intense game that we would have won had it not been for an amazing game from DiPietro. Now, let’s get started on notching a few in the W column……