A smattering of fans had already set up tents in the Coliseum parking lot by the time players began to file into the building for the morning skate at 10:30 am. Johnny Boychuk, who has been staying at the Marriot right across from the Coliseum, said he heard them in the morning.
"I heard people tailgating. It actually woke me up," he said, while chuckling, after the Islanders 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. "It was a little bit different, but it was good to see you that you have passionate fans."
Where TD Garden is situated in Boston there isn't much room to tailgate, so the experience was new for the team's newest defenseman. Saturday will serve as Boychuk's first and last time experience the home opener tradition at the Nassau Coliseum. It was also the fans final time to celebrate a new season by firing up the grill in the Coliseum parking lot.
By 5 p.m. the lot was full of fans huddled under tents and in big groups. "Let's Go Islanders" chants could be heard echoing from all around you. Inside the building -- by puck drop -- it was electric.
The atmosphere was reminiscent to the team's lone playoff appearance in the last decade, when they fell to Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It was exciting having a packed house," Brock Nelson said after the game. "It kind of reminded me of the playoffs a couple years ago. This is an exciting time for us and we know we're looking to make waves here."
He added: "When we came out for warm-ups, [the fans] were loud right from the start and we were able to feed off of their momentum."
The Islanders were business like in their approach to Saturday's game following the team's morning skate. Players talked about grabbing two points and having a job to do. Not letting themselves get wrapped up in the emotion or historical significance of the final home opener in Uniondale.
But you could see an extra jump in their step all night, even when the team took the ice for warm-ups, with an already large crowd congregated in the lower bowl, with T.I's "Bring Em Out" blaring over the Coliseum sound system.
"I think we knew it would be pretty electric," captain John Tavares told reporters gathered around his stall after the win. "It always is when it's a full house and [they are] some of the most passionate fans in sports. We were excited to get our first game under our belt and we knew they would be rocking. Driving in I think we saw all the tailgating and it just get's you fired up."
"It was special," he bluntly said as he wrapped up his answer.
Indeed it was.
For the fans in the parking lot it was special too. Mike Mosca, from Centereach, and the large contingent of family and friends have tailgated outside home openers the last eight years. This year is their last.
"The family grew up five minutes down the road in East Meadow," he explained as he and several other people began setting up their tailgate at 11: 30 am. "we've been to Islander games for as long as we can remember and rooting for the Islanders. We're excited about the last home opener... We're just going to enjoy the hell out of this season."
Neil Robbins, from Seaford, was even sadder to see Saturday be the final home opener. Robins has been attending games since the inaugural season in 1972 and can even boast that, at the age of 11, he was at the first Islander game at Nassau Coliseum.
It's horrible, it's absolutely horrible," he said. "Brooklyn may be made for hockey one day, but the Islanders are Islanders. It's just sad. Long Island lost another professional team. The Jets, the Nets. They lost a great business in Grumman. It just keeps throwing away what we need on the Island and it's just sad.
"Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a staple on Long Island back in the 70s, where we had growth and business. We were such a proud are of growth. Unfortunately it's sad that it's leaving."