BUFFALO – New York Islanders legend Bryan Trottier remembers the noise. The roar inside Nassau Coliseum would become deafening, funneling down from the stands to the ice.
“To the point where you’re reading lips,” Trottier, a Sabres assistant coach, said Friday. “Until you actually experience it, it’s just fantastic.”
The Isles are moving to bigger and better digs 24 miles away next season, the shiny Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Trottier, a Hall of Famer who won four straight Stanley Cups with the Isles from 1980-83, will make his final visit to the antiquated building in Uniondale tonight with the Sabres.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some strangeness to it,” Trottier said prior to the Sabres’ 4-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks inside the First Niagara Center. “It’s never fun going into the building as an enemy, so to speak. For me, it’s going back kind of to my first home. When there’s no more games being played there, it will be sad. But at least they’re not like torching it, tearing it down.”
The NHL’s oldest building possesses some unique charm. The 58-year-old Trottier sounded nostalgic Friday recalling some of his favorite Coliseum memories from the Isles’ dynasty.
One special moment came on May 24, 1980, in the aftermath of Bob Nystrom’s overtime Cup-winning goal against Philadelphia.
“We won the Cup, it’s just (a) constant roar that’s coming down on the ice,” Trottier said.
Trottier looked out into the crowd – a “group of crazy, fanatical, wonderful fans,” he said – and picked an elderly lady out. The two eyeballed each other for a split-second.
He heard the woman say, “I love you, Bryan.”
“I can remember not only reading her lips, but hearing her say it, her voice, out of that din, and she was like 20 rows up,” he said. “That’s how magnified everything gets, your senses, because you want to absorb everything.”
Trottier can still see her face and hear her voice.
As the players celebrated, fans climbed over the glass onto the ice.
“There was this inclusion with no exclusion,” Trottier said. “They were such a big part of that.”
He wishes every player could experience that moment.
“It’s such a vivid memory,” he said. “But it’s also such an everlasting memory.”
Still, as much as Trottier loves the Coliseum, he understands it’s time for the Isles to leave Long Island. He hopes the history will move with the team.
“As much as a big part of me would like to continue forever, you understand it needs some freshness, it needs some newness, it needs an upgrade,” Trottier said. “If they can’t do it there, what’s the alternative? I only wish the franchise great success, I only wish the fans great success, except (tonight).
“Every time I go in, I’m like, ‘Geez, I wish I didn’t have to play these guys.’”
The Isles honored Trottier earlier this season, a night he said was “very beautiful.”
For Trottier, this season has been a special experience.
Trottier knew what he was signing up for when Sabres coach Ted Nolan asked him to return to coaching after more than 11 years away.
“We knew that it was not going to be an overabundance of victories,” Trottier said. “We knew that there was going to be an opportunity here to really bring something positive and really watch the positives.”
Being engaged with the players and coaches has been “wonderful,” Trottier said.
“There’s been so many good things that have happened that … through the team and through the groups and through the individuals, to me, just supersede all the challenges or struggles or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “We knew what we were getting into here.”
When Trottier reflects on the season, the good things will outweigh the bad.
“I’ve already started my Santa Claus list,” he said. “All the good things.”
Winger Matt Moulson woke up Friday morning feeling ill, so the Sabres recalled Tim Schaller from Rochester. Schaller had to get to Buffalo from Iowa, where the Americans played Friday.
The Sabres also scratched defenseman Mike Weber (soreness). Tyson Strachan moved in.
With Moulson out, captain Brian Gionta moved to the left wing beside center Johan Larsson and Tyler Ennis.
In other news, goalie Matt Hackett (soreness) was scratched for the third straight game. Hackett, who had major knee surgery less than a year ago, hasn’t been able to practice.
“It’s tough,” Nolan said about Hackett. “Our practice schedule’s not very good right now.”
Nolan said backup goalie Andrey Makarov could make his NHL debut tonight.