Nassau Coliseum has been as much a part of the fabric of Long Island as the Islanders themselves. And despite its flaws, the thundering crowds had always created a true home-ice advantage that helped the organization make its mark on NHL history.
The Islanders will play the first of 21 regular-season games at the Coliseum when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. While the Islanders await construction of a new arena in Belmont, they will play at least half of their regular-season home games at the "new Old Barn" over the next three seasons.
While the unique arrangement will present scheduling challenges, the current crop of players relishes the chance to play in the Coliseum once again.
"Excited to be back home," Islanders captain Anders Lee said during practice on Friday. It's kind of like old times really. You are used it in about five seconds. It feels like nothing really changed."
Nassau County struggled to update the building with modern amenities which prevented the Islanders from growing financially as a franchise. The late Charles Wang made several efforts to keep the team on Long Island, but repeated attempts to upgrade the facility and questionable politics led the team to Brooklyn starting in 2015.
However, Barclays Center would never be considered home to the Islanders faithful. Whether it was the poor ice surface, difficult sightlines or an off-centered scoreboard, the building was just not suited for an NHL team.
The Coliseum has undergone a $165 million renovation and is ready to welcome the Islanders back home, even if it is on a part-time basis.
"I've never seen the old place look so good," Islanders legend Clark Gillies said at a recent media event. "I think the fans are going to be the big winners. This place is gorgeous. They've done a lot of great work on it."
New York State officials and the team combined to add an additional $10 million in renovations, including a redesigned locker room and upgrades to the broadcasting infrastructure.
The arrangement between Barclays and the Islanders was always murky at best. Business operations were once solely handled by the folks in Brooklyn, but have now shifted back to the team's control. But the biggest challenge was always transportation.
The Islanders built a top-of-the-line practice arena approximately 30 miles east of their home arena. The players remained on Long Island and commuted to Brooklyn either by car or public transportation. This has hardly been an ideal scenario to create a home-ice advantage.
"It's going to be a lot easier on the guys as far as commuting goes," alternate captain Cal Clutterbuck said earlier this season. "I think anytime you can cut down on travel time by two and a half hours, 20 times a year, any sort of change-up scenario that would bother you is not going to bother you that much."
Since the inception of both the Islanders and the Coliseum, the franchise won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83 and 19-straight postseason series wins, which helped the arena earn the nickname Fort Neverlose.
When Islanders fans arrive at the Coliseum on Saturday, they'll notice some aesthetic differences from the venue they grew to love. With renovations moving the Islanders' locker room, what was once the visitors bench will now be the home bench. While the Islanders shot from right to left (in TV viewing) for more than 40 years, that will now be reversed.
However, this is still the Coliseum. And for the franchise, it's still home, far more than any place it has played since 2015.
"The building isn't much different," veteran forward Matt Martin said. "The structure of it is the same. They obviously fixed some things, changed the seats, painted some walls but the foundation of the building is still the same. From what we remember it was unbelievable. I think the people of Long Island waited a long time for this and are excited for it to be back."