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The Nassau Coliseum – through the eyes of an Islanders fan

Nearly 40 years after it first opened, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is being paid tribute in a way like never before – with a book detailing its history by Daily News reporter Nicholas Hirshon.

Hirshon’s book, Images of America: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is the first to highlight the building’s history since it opened in 1972. As one of the most prominent arenas of its time, the Coliseum has come to be known as one of the biggest sports venues in New York, largely associated with the New York Islanders who dominated the NHL throughout the early 1980s. But as Hirshon’s book depicts, through facts and more than 200 photos, the Coliseum is much more than just a hockey rink.

“There were so many other events held regularly at the Coliseum," said Hirshon. “Beyond sports, there were concerts, conventions, and graduation ceremonies, to name a few. It’s a very versatile facility.”

A native of Queens, Hirshon grew up an Islanders fan and developed an innate interest in the building at a young age.

“I would go to games six or seven times a season,” said Hirshon. “Sometimes I would even go to a concert there, and after a while I just started wondering about all the stuff that went on there.”

Hirshon entered St. John’s University in Jamaica as a journalism major with a minor in sports management. During his time at St. John’s, he took a class with Lance Elder, a former manager of the Coliseum who would often discuss the events that took place there and how they were scheduled.

After learning more about the broad history of the Coliseum, Hirshon – who works for the Daily News full-time – decided to profile the building in his first book. He began looking at publishers in 2009 and received a contract in June from the first company he went to, Arcadia Publishing.

“I had a friend who had written a few books for Arcadia,” said Hirshon. “I talked with him about the company and he told me they would be a good way to go.”

Hirshon immediately began gathering information and compiling photographs. In doing so, he learned some interesting facts about the Coliseum that even a life-long Islanders fan from right around the corner would never have guessed.

According to Hirshon, one of the most surprising parts included in his book illustrates the many political events that the Coliseum has housed throughout the years. Presidential candidates Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford both used the venue to deliver campaign speeches just a few days before elections. The appearance of politics throughout the Coliseum’s history helps to show its true importance to the New York area, Hirshon said.

Hirshon spent about nine months working on the book before it was due. He had signed the contract in the summer of 2009 and said it was crunch time around January and February before it was finally due in April. For a reporter at a New York City newspaper who also teaches journalism classes at LaGuardia Community College, the stress of adding a third commitment started to take its toll.

“Everything sort of came together all at once,” said Hirshon. “Something had to give. I ended up taking about a month and a half off from the Daily News to focus on the book.”

Now, with Images of America: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on bookstore shelves, Hirshon admits that while the process was intense, it is rewarding to see the final product and the outcome of his hard work.

“Expect a lot of photos of the Islanders throughout the years,” Hirshon said.

For information about upcoming book signings or lectures, visit Hirshon’s web site at www.nicholashirshon.com.

 

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