As you may have heard, a group of about 1,100 disgruntled Quebec hockey fans boarded 22 buses and invaded the New York Islanders' game at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night, protesting the fact that the NHL continues to prop up teams with attendance struggles while the rabid fans of "Nordiques Nation" have been without a franchise since 1995.
Puck Buddy Jeff Herman was also in the house, but not for the Nords protest. No, he wanted to observe and report on the Quebec demonstration, and did so in an email over the weekend. Here's what he said he witnessed from the Nords' protest ... and the underreported Islanders' counter-protests from random fans:
• I kept an open mind when I first approached their rally outside the Coliseum. However, when I asked someone there about how it was organized, they didn't know any English, so it was a mental roll of the eyes.
• I felt bad for the concessions stands people that night. Their first question isn't "what can I get for you?" it's "do you speak English?"
• Out on the concourse, and I think during the game, there were sing-song chants of "DEN-VER! DEN-VER! DEN-VER!" coming from Isles fans.
• One fan told me the reason why they came to Long Island was because this was the closest the Nordiques fans could get a large number of tickets for a good price.
• There were chants of "Nor-diques Na-tion!" coming from the front of Section 329: the back of 329 contains a handful of ardent Islanders fans in their early/mid-20s (they're called Loudville), and they countered with a similar chant, but with no "R" in Nordiques.
• In Section 329, there were some kids who looked like they weren't even born when the Nordiques moved. They were more obnoxious than the older fans, but they were also terrible dancers.
• Finally, the Nordiques fans weren't the only relocated team awaiting an NHL franchise to return, as you can see from the image above.
UPDATE: After the jump, Puck Buddy Paul McManus adds his own experiences from the Quebec invasion of the Islanders' game against the Atlanta Thrashers ... as a Rangers fan wearing a Nords T-Shirt.
So I went to the Islanders-Thrashers game on Saturday night. My friend got free tickets (what a surprise) and we really only went to see how many Quebec fans actually showed up. I wore a Nordiques t-shirt.
We got to the game a few minutes late and made it to our seats in the 300s. We were surrounded by Nordiques fans who were seated in at least half of the 300s sections throughout the Coliseum. There were probably only about 8,000 people in attendance for the game. About 5,000-6,000 Islanders fans, a small section of Thrashers fans that were mostly children (probably the players' kids or for some promo by the Thrashers) and I would say over 2,000 Nordiques fans! They were really loud and enthusiastic throughout the game chanting various things. Most common ones were "Nordiques Nation," "Let's Go Islanders," "Defense" when the Islanders were in the defensive zone and "Bruno" for Bruno Gervais(notes) of the Islanders.
Also, at the 15:10 mark of each period they would count down from 10 in French and when the period reached the 15:00 mark every Nordiques fan stood up and made noise for about 30 seconds or so to commemorate the Nordiques moving 15 years ago. The wave was also started several times by the Nordiques fans in my section.
At one point the Islanders put a welcome to the group on the screen and the Islanders fans all got up and gave the Nordiques fans a warm welcome. The Islanders fans in front of me, thinking I was with the group of Nordiques fans, asked me jokingly to make it to the next home game. Then, when the Islanders were losing in the 3rd period, they jokingly told me that we can take the team back with us to Quebec right now. All in all it was a surreal scene to see that many Nordiques fans at an NHL game again but it was also a lot of fun.
Check out Leahy's piece on the Nords fan invasion for more on that protest.