Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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May 12, 1972 – New York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers


Jim Eakins Virginia SquiresNew York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers
ABA Championship Series, Game 3
May 12, 1972
Nassau Coliseum
Attendance: 15,241

American Basketball Association Programs
52 Pages


The New York Islanders play their final regular season at the Nassau Coliseum tonight, the team’s home for the past 42 winters.  The Isles will play at least two playoff dates at the Coliseum this spring before moving to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn next fall, but the eulogies for “Fort Never Lose” are already rolling in.  And they’ve been oddly sentimental, given how relentlessly the Coliseum has been kicked around in recent years, most famously by Gary Bettman, who told a Hofstra University audience in 2009:

“There is probably no worse Major League facility right now in North America than the Nassau Coliseum.”

The locals cheered in agreement.

But now that it’s losing the Islanders and the NHL forever, the Nassau Coliseum is enjoying something of a critical reappraisal. Grantland and ESPN ran lengthy “it’s a dump, but it’s our dump” eulogies.  George Vecsey at The Times, who covered the Isles’ 1980-1983 Stanley Cup dynasty, composed the most sincere and heartfelt farewell to the Coliseum, though “squat” was the most romantic sobriquet he chose to describe the arena’s aesthetic charms.

With all the column inches, you’d think the old barn was scheduled for demolition.  In fact, it’s just losing the NHL. The arena will be downsized, refurbished and revert to being a minor league building in the middle of nowhere. Which, in a sense, has been part of the building’s DNA since it opened in 1972.  Because although the Coliseum will always be inextricably linked with the Islanders and their early 80’s Cup winners, the building has proved an irresistible magnet for every “sport of the future” that desperately wanted to plant its flag in a place that would pass for New York.


Of all the teams that made a home at the Nassau Coliseum over the years, only the arena’s two original tenants way back in 1972 are still around.  The New York Nets of the American Basketball Association made the championship series in 1972 after moving over from the tiny Island Garden in West Hempstead late in the season.  Today’s program (top right) is from Game 3 of the 1972 ABA Championship Series against the Indiana Pacers, which was the first championship sporting event in the building.  The turnout of 15,241 fans was the largest postseason crowd in ABA history to that point.  But despite 44 points from the Nets’ top attraction Rick Barry, the Pacers took control of the series with a 114-108 win.  Indiana rookie George McGinniss had 30 points and 20 boards to upstage Barry.  The Pacers went on to win the series in six games.

The Islanders themselves arrived a few months later, but only after another unproven start-up spooked the NHL into a hasty pre-emptive expansion.  A proposed hockey club called the New York Raiders had their sights set on the Coliseum for the debut season of the rebel World Hockey Association in fall of 1972.  The Islanders got the lease instead, dooming the WHA’s efforts in New York to repeated disasters at the more expensive Madison Square Garden.

The Nets and the Islanders haven’t shared an arena since the basketball team decamped for New Jersey in 1977. This October they will reunite in Brooklyn at the Barclay’s Center.  As for the rest of the franchises that set up shop at Nassau Coliseum – and there are a bunch – they are long, long gone…

  • Billie Jean King headlined the New York Sets, a co-ed team tennis promotion that played 20-odd dates a summer at the Coliseum from 1974 until 1976.
  • Box lacrosse tried to gain a foothold at the Coliseum over and over again, starting with the Long Island Tomahawks (1975).  The New York Saints (1989-2003) hung in for 14 years, the longest tenancy of any team besides the Isles. But the New York Titans (2007) were yet another One-Year Wonder to vanish from the Coliseum after just a few months of play.
  • While the Islanders were winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, there were actually two dynasties at the Coliseum. The New York Arrows won the first four championship of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) from 1979 to 1982, led by a pair of flashy Yugoslav forwards, Branko Segota and Steve Zungul.  The Arrows went bankrupt in 1984.
  • After the Arrows died, the MISL tried to get back into New York with an expansion team called the New York Express in 1986.  After a public stock offering flopped, the Express ran out of money and folded halfway through its debut season. One of the former Express owners is currently in federal prison after adopting a false identity to run venture capital scams.
  • Professional roller hockey arrived in 1996 with the formation of the Long Island Jawz. Professional roller hockey also departed in 1996.
  • Islanders owner Charles Wang also owned the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League from 2001 to 2008. The Dragons offered a severe cautionary tale for novice sports investors. In July 2008, Wang sold the Dragons to Steve Silva for $12 million. Five months later, league investors suffered a crisis of confidence and shut down the league after 22 seasons.  Silva never got to see his team play a down.

Numerous reports have it that the Nassau Coliseum is looking for an American Hockey League club to replace the Islanders on Long Island.  The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have been rumored to be that team for several years now. So the Fun While It Lasted hijinks in Uniondale are likely far from over.



May 12, 1972 New York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers Game Notes





Written by AC

April 12th, 2015 at 2:18 am

1975 Long Island Tomahawks


Long Island TomahawksNational Lacrosse League (1975)

Born: 1975 – The Rochester Griffins relocate to Long Island, NY.
Died: February 1976 – The NLL ceases operations.

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (14,300)

Team Colors:

Owner: Bruce Norris


The Long Island Tomahawks were a pro box lacrosse team that played at Nassau Coliseum in the summer of 1975.  The team’s ancestry is a little convoluted.  Owner Bruce Norris, who also owned the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, was an original investor in the National Lacrosse League.  During the league’s first season in 1974, Norris owned the league’s Toronto Tomahawks franchise.  The Tomahawks floundered at Maple Leaf Gardens and the team was shifted to new ownership in Boston for the 1975 season.  Norris, meanwhile, kept the Tomahawks name and logo and bought the 1974 league champion Rochester Griffins franchise and moved it downstate to Long Island.

Bill Tierney LacrosseDespite the name lifted from Norris’ old Toronto club, the Long Island Tomahawks traced their history to the Griffins and you can see on their game program (above right) that they promoted themselves as the “1974 World Champions” of pro lacrosse.

Modern day box lacrosse fans are familiar with the game played on Astroturf carpets, but the National Lacrosse League of the 1970’s played on wooden courts laid over the ice at hockey arenas.  The Tomahawks’ court was painted an unusual white color, which you can see in the video below.  The league’s other teams typically played on green wooden surfaces.

The Tomahawks were the best team in the 6-team NLL during the 1975 season with a 31-17 record.  But they lost to the 4th-place Quebec Caribous 4 games to 2 in the semi-final playoff series in September 1975.  Doug Hayes (104 goals, 126 assists) led the league in scoring.

In February 1976 the National Lacrosse League went out of business, saying that only the Maryland, Philadelphia and Quebec franchises were prepared to move forward with a third season.  Pro lacrosse returned to the Nassau Coliseum in 1989 with the arrival of the New York Saints (1989-2003) of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.


==Long Island Tomahawks Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other


4/28/1975 @ Boston Bolts  W 19-17 (OT) Program
5/14/1975 vs. Maryland Arrows ?? Program
5/27/1975 vs. Quebec Caribous  W 19-17 Program



The Long Island Tomahawks host the Philadelphia Wings at Nassau Coliseum. August 29, 1975



National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs


Written by AC

February 22nd, 2014 at 8:08 pm

1996 Long Island Jawz

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Long Island JawzRoller Hockey International (1996)

Born: 1995 – RHI expansion franchise.
Folded: July 1996 – The Jawz announce they will disband after the 1996 season

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (16,297)

Team Colors: Blue, Silver, Black & Red

Owner: Jim Leahy

Murphy Cup Championships: None


The Long Island Jawz made a brief appearance in Roller Hockey International, playing a single campaign in the summer of 1996.  The owners of the Jawz – who also owned RHI’s New Jersey Rockin’ Rollers franchise – got into an acrimonious battle with Spectacor Management Group (SMG), managers of the Nassau Coliseum, over advertising placement rights and threw in the towel before the team’s inaugural season was even over.  In July 1996, just one month after starting play, the Jawz announced they would fold after completing the 1996 RHI schedule.

The team was pretty good, finishing 16-9-3 under Head Coach Phil DeGaetano.  Winger Hugo Belanger (48 goals, 53 assists) recorded the only 100-point season on RHI’s history and won the league’s Player-of-the-Year Award.  Another key player was Glen Metropolit (39 goals, 37 assists) who later enjoyed a 9-year NHL career between 1999 and 2010.



1996 Long Island Jawz Statistics on 

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs


Written by AC

February 4th, 2014 at 9:21 pm

November 20, 1981 – New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets

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New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets
November 20, 1981
Nassau Coliseum
Attendance: 12,118

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
68 pages


When the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) debuted in December 1978, the sport of indoor soccer was basically a new invention.   A few previous leagues had tried and failed to get off the ground.  The outdoor North American Soccer League (NASL) had experimented with a few weekend tournaments and one-off exhibitions over the years.  But no one had truly tried to market the game to American sports fans until MISL founders Earl Foreman and Ed Tepper got their league off the ground in the winter of 1978-79.

By 1981 – just three years later – an indoor soccer glut had descended on the metropolitan NYC market.  The Brendan Byrne Arena opened that July in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in north Jersey.  With the MISL heading into its fourth season and firmly in expansion mode, co-founder Ed Tepper took the opportunity to finally launch his own franchise, bringing the New Jersey Rockets to the brand new 19,000-seat arena.  Tepper wasn’t the only soccer investor with his eyes on the new building.  The NASL launched its own wintertime indoor league in 1979.  But for two years the NASL’s most famous club looked down their nose at the indoor game and declined to participate.  In 1981, with Byrne Arena opening right next to their outdoor home at Giants Stadium, the New York Cosmos finally got off the sidelines and fielded a indoor side.  Between the Rockets and the Cosmos, there were 31 indoor soccer dates at the Byrne in just five months.  The Cosmos fielded a half-hearted last place team but the added competition still drove Tepper’s Rockets into bankruptcy and oblivion by the end of the season.

But the oldest and most successful of the New York indoor teams was the New York Arrows, who played out on Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum.  The Arrows were a dynasty and they’d won the first three championships of the MISL.  They had the league’s best player in Yugoslavian scoring wizard Steve Zungul, who was to indoor soccer in the early 80’s what Wayne Gretzky was to ice hockey.  Branko Segota wasn’t far behind Zungul and the Arrows also had one of the few well-known American stars in soccer, former Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing.  As good as they were, the Arrows were something short of a sensation out on Long Island, never ranking among the league’s top draws despite their virtual invincibility.

This match was the Arrows fourth season opener against the expansion Rockets.  Their dominance was on full display for the large crowd at Nassau Coliseum, as the Arrows raced out to a 9-0 lead before easing off the gas pedal late.   As usual, Zungul led the way with four goals. Argentinean forward Luis Alberto added a hat trick as well.  The Rockets picked up two garbage goals late for a 9-2 final.

At the end of this 1981-82 season, the Arrows won their fourth straight MISL crown, which would also be their final hurrah.  The following season, Zungul was shipped out in a midseason budget-cutting move and by the summer of 1984 of the Arrows were no more.



November 20, 1981 New York Arrows Game Notes

November 20, 1981 New Jersey Rockets Game Notes

November 20, 1981 Official Scorer’s Report



New Jersey Rockets Home Page

New York Arrows Home Page



Written by AC

July 30th, 2013 at 4:17 am

1978-1984 New York Arrows

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New York ArrowsMajor Indoor Soccer League (1978-1984)

Born: 1978 – MISL founding franchise
Folded: July 1984

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (15,026)

Team Colors: Bordeaux Red, Blue & White


MISL Champions: 1979, 1980, 1981 & 1982


The New York Arrows were the original dynasty franchise in the sport of indoor soccer in the United States.  One of six founding franchises in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1978, the Arrows won the first four MISL championships from 1979 to 1982.  The team was virtually unbeatable during this stretch, posting a regular season record of 114-26 under Head Coach Don Popovic.

Arrows owner John Luciani was also an investor in the Rochester Lancers of the outdoor North American Soccer League during the late 1970’s.  Luciani was only involved with the Lancers for a short time and would ultimately ended up embroiled in contentious lawsuits with other members of the Lancers’ sprawling and unwieldy ownership consortium.  But Luciani was involved with Rochester when the MISL formed in the fall of 1978 and this allowed him to essentially make the Arrows into a sister club of the Lancers and stock the team with talent from the outdoor club.  Don Popovic came over from the Lancers, as did the teenage scoring prodigy Branko Segota and goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was one of the few recognizable American-born stars of the era, thanks to his years with the glamorous New York Cosmos of the NASL (and perhaps also his nude photo shoot for VIVA magazine in 1974).

The biggest find for the Arrows was the Yugoslavian striker Steve Zungul.  A budding superstar for Hajduk Split in the Yugoslav First League, Zungul became embroiled in a dispute with club management. He was concerned they would send him off to compulsory military service.  In December 1978 – the same month the MISL kicked off its inaugural season – Zungul defected to the United States and signed with the Arrows.  He hoped to eventually sign with an NASL club and play outdoor soccer. But Yugoslavia successfully petitioned FIFA to ban Zungul from all FIFA-sanctioned leagues until his 28th birthday in 1982, citing a Yugoslavian rule that players could not play overseas prior to age 28.  The NASL was sanctioned by FIFA, but the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League was not.  Thus through a quirk of Cold War politics, the Arrows found themselves in sole possession of the indoor game’s first great star – the man who became known as “The Lord of All Indoors”.

Zungul would win the MISL’s Most Valuable Player award in each season from 1979 to 1982, matching the years that the Arrows won the league title.

The Arrows played at the Nassau Coliseum out on Long Island.  Despite their dominance, local interest in the team never match the enthusiasm for indoor soccer in Midwest hotbeds like Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.  Announced attendance peaked for the Arrows during their third season at 8,083 fans per game and then dropped steadily through the early 1980’s.

John Luciani sold the Arrows for an undisclosed amount in November 1982 just as the Arrows fifth season got underway.  He cited $10 million in losses during the Arrows’ first four season.  The new owner was Dr. David Schoenstadt, who also happened to be the owner of the MISL’s tremendously popular Kansas City Comets club.  The purchase created a competitive conflict of interest within the MISL, but allowed the young league to maintain a foothold in the vital New York media market.  Carl Berg, owner of the Golden Bay Earthquakes, who played in the MISL that season, was also part of the new investment group.

New York ArrowsSchoenstadt and his management team were not able to replicate the success they had in Kansas City.  The ownership transition of 1982 marked the end of the Arrows dynasty and the beginning of the club’s rapid decline.  The Arrows early dominance was fueled largely by foreign – particularly Slavic – stars (with the exception of Shep Messing).  The new management promoted a process of “Americanization”, believing that American players would be more relatable and better suited to the club’s aggressive grass roots marketing strategy of promoting the Arrows through clinics and community appearances.

Other observers believed “Americanization” was a rhetorical cover for cost-cutting. They pointed in particular to the departure of Steve Zungul as Exhibit A.  The Arrows traded Zungul, who earned a reported $150,000/year at his Arrows peak, to the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the middle of the 1982-83 season for Gary Etherington and Gordon Hill. The deal effectively ended the Arrows run as an elite team.

The Arrows final season came during the winter of 1983-84.  Schoenstadt complained about the lease terms at Nassau Coliseum while attendance declined to 5,478 per match.  Efforts to sell and relocate the team to either Charlotte or Cincinnati fell through.  In July 1984 the Arrows folded and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In early 1986, former Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing assembled an investor group and successfully applied for an MISL expansion club to replace the Arrows on Long Island.  The New York Express joined the MISL for the 1986-87 season, but lasted only until the All-Star Break before folding with a record of 3-23.  The original MISL folded in July 1992.


New York Arrows Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Arrows owner David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

Arrows forward Paul Kitson died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 while coaching a soccer clinic in Toronto.  He was 49.


New York Arrows Video

The Arrows host the Baltimore Blast at Nassau Coliseum.  April 2, 1982.


1979-80 New York Arrows Season Ticket Brochure

November 20, 1981 New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets Game Notes



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs



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