Eric Mirlis has been an Islander fan since the second grade. His dad took him to his first hockey game on March 8, 1977, a 3-1 Islander loss to Minnesota. "I was hooked immediately and have been a fan ever since," he said.
Mirlis went on to work in various positions in the media, including five years in the Islanders communications department. Now living in Los Angeles, Mirlis remains loyal to the blue and orange. Islanders Point Blank recently spoke with him to discuss some of his Nassau Coliseum Memories.
IPB: What was the best game you’ve been to at the Nassau Coliseum?
Mirlis: It is hard to name just one game as the best I've been to, since I had a chance to see lots of games during two distinct eras. I grew up during the Cup years and got to see dozens of games featuring one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Naming just one is too difficult. For personal reasons, though, the best games for me were in the 1993 playoffs, while I was working in the PR Department for the team.
That run to the semifinals was just unforgettable, and as great as the OT winners against Washington were, I think the game against Pittsburgh in the Division Finals where Darius Kasparaitis was pushing Mario Lemieux around all over the ice just might have been the best game I saw during my five seasons with the organization. The one stretch where he kept chasing Mario and hitting him epitomized that series. The young, upstart team without its best player, that no one gave a chance in hell against the two-time defending champs, was making lots of noise and declaring that it wasn't going to go away. And we all know how that series turned out.
IPB: What was the most memorable moment you’ve experienced at Nassau Coliseum during an Islander game?
Mirlis: There are lots of good ones and, unfortunately, some bad ones that I'll avoid. The John Tonelli five-goal game was awesome. I was there for at least one Cup banner-raising. There was Billy Smith stopping a penalty shot against the Caps in the 1985 playoffs. But again, I need to pull this one from my time working there, and have to lump a few together into one. It was beyond special to be a part of the first four jersey retirement ceremonies. Denis Potvin's, Mike Bossy's, Billy Smith's and Bobby Nystrom's. I grew up idolizing Mike Bossy, so just being there for that one was very cool. Billy and Bobby both worked for the organization when their numbers were retired, so I had a chance to get to know both, making those nights mean ever more.
IPB: Do you have a funny story or memory from a game at the Coliseum?
Mirlis: When I was a kid, one of my dad's clients often gave him tickets. The seats were in the second row, right behind the visitor's penalty box. One night, we were sitting there for a game against the Rangers. I was probably around 10 or 11 at the time, and Ron Duguay was called for a penalty. Being a dumb kid, I figured it would be smart to give him the finger as he entered the box, since he was looking right at me. Let's just say that didn't go over too well with my father, who immediately grabbed me by the ear and "gently" tugged me back into my seat. And yes, Duguay saw the whole thing and had a nice chuckle for the next two minutes.
IPB: What will you miss the most about the Coliseum?
Mirlis: I think what I'll miss most isn't in the past, but in the future. We might live in LA now, but the idea that I won't be able to take my son to see games there after this season is heartbreaking to me. He is six, so he is just getting to that age where he understands what is going on and can appreciate what that building means to Islander fans. We are flying back for one more game before the season ends, however.
IPB: What makes the Coliseum special to you?
Mirlis: I had the chance to spend more time in that building than most people, since I went to work there every day for five years. I grew up there going to games as a kid, then grew up there again as a professional adult. It wasn't just the Islander games, though. It was the concerts and shows. I saw the first Wrestlemania there on closed circuit TV! When I worked there, we used to be able to go into the seating area and watch sound checks before concerts. There were all-nighters in the office and too many weekends than I can count, but it was all worth it. And as they say, "It might be a dump, but it is OUR dump."