If you’re a hockey fan, your dream scenario is here. Hours on top of hours of never-ending hockey. We have all stayed up late to watch thrilling 2OT playoff games. Now, we are about to experience playoff hockey seven days a week, from 12:00pm to past 1:00am.
Although none of us are going to be at any of the NHL playoff games this year, I am one of the few privileged writers to live in the New York City market. One of the advantages I have is the ability to do an NHL doubleheader a few times each season. I regularly pounce on the opportunity to see the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and/or New York Rangers on the same day.
In fact, on two occasions, I have seen all three teams in a day. The most hockey games I have attended in one day was three when Barclays Center, on November 1st, 2015, hosted an NCAA doubleheader, first at 11:15am between Army and Bentley, followed by UConn and Notre Dame. At 7:30 that night, the Islanders hosted the Buffalo Sabres. This season, back in November, I did do an AHL/NHL doubleheader out in San Jose. Here is how I handle a full day of hockey in person.
- Always have a charger
- Always have your phone on you
- Watch your drinking
- And Eat
My doubleheaders usually had me first going to Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey before schlepping over to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Considering that these games are on the weekend, I always take the Long Island Rail Road to New York’s Penn Station before connecting to New Jersey Transit on any RED or BLUE train to Newark Penn Station. As much as I hate New Jersey Transit, their train tickets never expire. If there is a big enough gap between trains, I can usually take the New York City Subway’s A, C, or E trains to the World Trade Center to connect to the PATH which goes directly to Newark Penn Station.
Although usually, I am able to get to Prudential Center for warmups, occasionally, I end up getting outside just as warmups are beginning and inside after warmups have ended. It can take a while to get inside The Rock. Prudential Center allows fans to go down to the glass for warmups, but recently, they have limited you to certain sections in the corner on the bench side.
All-in-all, it is about a 90-minute trip from my house to the game. My pregame routine is to do multiple laps around the main concourse if possible. If not, I head straight to my seat. The ideal time for any building to get food in is the second intermission.
At home, you can get food at any time. One of the reasons I do take these laps is to get familiar with the concessions. If I do not have the intention to go down to the glass for warmups, pregame is also the ideal time to get food. I know there is a temptation to drink alcohol during the first game. Do not do that unless if you are going to limit yourself to one drink. Prudential Center has plenty of concession choices.
Games may head to overtime or a shootout and that’s perfectly fine. That kills off your postgame idling time, not your actual traveling time, and in the New York City market, that is not a problem.
After the game, you have to know where you are heading next. With that, you still need to know your surrounding area and the right spots to go to.
If I am first leaving a Devils game. I immediately take the train to New York City. Newark is not a destination, although there are some okay places around Prudential Center. If going to a Rangers game, you should be taking New Jersey Transit back to New York Penn.
The easiest and most comfortable way to get to Newark Penn without getting lost is to walk across the street from the box office and go through Gateway. Don’t think about anything, follow all the Devils fans and just walk. That leads you right to the station.
You will take the escalator at the end heading down. Make a right, followed by a left at the end of the hallway. Head straight to the end to Track 1, make a right and head up the escalator. New Jersey Transit has trains scheduled to coincide with the postgame rush.
If I was heading to Barclays Center next, PATH trains would have left on this same platform for the World Trade Center every 20 minutes. Before hopping on any train, always check to see if the 2, 3, 4 and 5 Subway trains are running. A MetroCard will work for the PATH and is cheaper than New Jersey Transit.
Since the Islanders are now at Nassau Coliseum full-time and UBS Arena is opening for the 2021-22 season, we have to take New Jersey Transit. It’s usually a quick 20-minute ride. Up the steps will be Madison Square Garden. Just follow the signs posted as they lead you right to the main entrance.
When heading to a Ranger game, now would be the time to get an early dinner as Madison Square Garden prices can be quite expensive unless you have certain club seats. You can enter Madison Square Garden’s Chase Square well before doors actually open which helps prevent crowding on the sidewalks. If you have CLEAR, which is free to sign up, there is a dedicated security lane that opens outside Chase Square once doors open.
You can also download the MSG App, which may save time on security and lines for concession stands. For those lined up inside Chase Square, prior to taking tickets, they will escort you down the tunnels to another Tower. That will be the end that the Rangers shoot twice. You can wait in Chase Square for that crowd to pass as you’ll be able to line up shortly for the Towers closest to Chase Square which are on the side where the Rangers will take pregame warmups.
For an old building, even though the Garden was renovated, bathroom lines can still be long during intermissions. I have never had a long wait for concessions, mostly because the prices are jacked up and the Garden offers in-seat service in several parts of the lower bowl. For the shortest restroom wait during intermissions, there is an escalator behind Section 102, next to a team store and a bar.
Take the escalator down a level and turn left. There will be restrooms with absolutely nobody in line. No special ticket is required and they never ask to see your tickets. Additionally, there is no wait for a cocktail. There is a club that you can walk into for a solid pregame meal. Despite Madison Square Garden being very pricy, these are perks you will not find anywhere else. (Most season ticket holders do not know anything about this).
If you are a drinker, Madison Square Garden does ID, but they only ask for your ID once. Beginning with the 2017-18 season, the bartenders would place a wristband on you, verifying that you are of age. If anyone else asked to see your ID, showing them the wristband does the job for them. The second game is usually the best time to drink.
Games at Nassau Coliseum are the trickiest. My recommendation is to take the Long Island Rail Road to Mineola. The trains to take that would be the Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, or Ronkonkoma lines. Be careful because not every one of those trains will stop at every station. Make sure your ticket on weekends is “Off Peak.”
On weeknights, you will need a “Peak” ticket to get to the game, but an “Off Peak” ticket to get home. A round trip “Peak” also works, but that wastes your money. You can drink on the train, but if you are not from Long Island, you are going to end up in a bad position, so don’t. At Mineola, get off and walk up. There will be taxis to take you to the game. Just say “Coliseum” and you should be there within 15 minutes.
The Coliseum will be full of tailgates on game night, but there are not many food options. Basically, your options are the Marriott next door, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Ralph’s Ices (when nice outside) and Starbucks across the street and Borelli’s on the other side of the parkway. Hempstead Turnpike isn’t the greatest place in the world to be. Nassau Coliseum has plenty of food choices, but you should be eating pregame and pregame only. Be prepared for the longest bathroom waits of the century. Seriously, they take forever.
UBS Arena opens next fall. Once it does, there will be plenty of pregame options outside the arena. Getting there is easy by taking the Long Island Rail Road to the Belmont Spur. The arena is a quick walk from the station and will have direct access from New York Penn Station, and eventually, Grand Central on event nights.