If there were any lingering hopes that the Islanders had a few more games left to play at Nassau Coliseum, team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello all but slammed that door shut Tuesday morning.
Speaking with the media on June 29, the Hall-of-Fame executive confirmed earlier reports from amNewYork Metro that he expects the Islanders to begin the 2021-22 season on an extended road trip until their new home, UBS Arena at Belmont Park, is completed.
“We have not seen our schedule,” Lamoriello started. “But we are fortunate in this area that there are other teams [Rangers, Devils, Flyers] that are in a proximity that even though we’d go on a western road trip, coming home, it wouldn’t be as taxing to our players and families if we play a considerable amount of time away from the arena.”
UBS Arena is expected to be completed in November, between two weeks to one month after the NHL regular season will begin in mid-October. In the meantime, any home preseason games are to be played in Bridgeport, CT, home of the Islanders’ minor-league affiliate.
Such a course of action taken by the schedule makers is not new. The Rangers played their first seven games of the 2011-12 season on the road as renovations to Madison Square Garden were completed.
It isn’t exactly the best way to start a new year, but Lamoriello believes that an extended road trip won’t impact the Stanley Cup semifinalists as long as they produce.
“Being in this business for the time that I’ve been in, it depends on how well your team is playing,” Lamoriello said. “If you’re playing well and winning… it’s not like a road trip… I try very hard to not look at it as a negative. I look at it as I’m more concerned with how we’re playing… I’m not worried about the trips.
“I know the NHL and scheduling group take in tremendous consideration of keeping players on the road for too long. I’m confident we get a schedule we can live with. It won’t be under a normal circumstance as if we started in the new arena on Day 1, but I’m looking at this as a glass half full [scenario] and the excitement of playing all our available home games, 41 of them, in front of our home fans. That will get you over any discomfort of being on the road.”