Fans from near and far, young and old, packed Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night as the Islanders returned to their roots for the first of 21 games in Uniondale.
It felt as if the Islanders took a 270-game road trip after leaving the Coliseum back in 2015. While the building underwent several renovations, the atmosphere and infrastructure didn't change.
"The only way to describe this is that we are home," said Frankie Borrelli, a Barstool Sports personality who organized a tailgate of approximately 250 people. "You just get the goosebumps just looking at this arena. See all the fans back home."
Kids competed in floor hockey games, customized Islander cornhole sets littered the parking lot and fans fired up their grills starting in the early afternoon.
"Who would think a Saturday game in the middle of December would mean anything?" Borelli said. "But we are here and it's amazing."
For Adam Lowenfield of Old Bethpage, the opportunity to share memories of this building from his childhood with his daughter was "priceless."
"It was special to share an Islanders moment at the Coliseum with my 5-year-old daughter," Lowenfield said. "She has only experienced games in Brooklyn, and Saturday provided me a chance to show her where I sat as a child. We both had a lot of fun."
And it wasn't just fans on the island lured back to the old barn.
Sharon and Eric Harbauer, who grew up in Smithtown but currently live in North Carolina, felt obligated to fly up and attend the first regular-season hockey game in Uniondale in three and a half years
"We made the decision to fly up on Thursday," Sharon said, donning a white Mike Bossy jersey. "This year, we'll probably do about six road games, but we couldn't miss this one."
Everything fell into place as the Islanders line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck started the contest and delivered a few big hits to get the crowd roaring.
"Coming out for warmups, that was a different atmosphere," Cizikas said after netting a third-period game-winning goal as the Islanders overcame a two-goal deficit. "We fed off that. These points are as much theirs as ours. We are a family here."
There was a certain level of symmetry as Columbus took part in the final regular-season game at the Coliseum on April 11, 2015. The Islanders went on to host three more playoff games that year against Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals.
Of the Islanders five games remaining in the month of December, three will be played at Barclays Center, including Tuesday night's matchup with the Winnipeg Jets.
"It's going to be quite different," Trotz said. "It's going to be a little quieter, I know that. It will be different, we are going to have to be self-motivated."