OK, many of you saw my tweet Sunday night about being locked IN the Nassau Coliseum after the Sabres' win so I feel like I owe you the full story. (By the way, you can read the Sabres' game story here)
The Coliseum is an old building, dating to the early 1970s. It's small and circular with just one concourse. If you haven't been there, you'd be shocked at how tiny it is. At most arenas, like HSBC, you go through a security-type entrance with your credential and that's how you exit too. At the Coliseum there is an entrance by a canopy that takes you to a table inside the concourse. You get your credential, take the elevator up and you're in the suite/press box level.
Also understand this was my third trip there and I've never had a problem before. But Sunday, the place cleared in a heartbeat. I'm pretty certain vendors, cleaners etc. were all in a hurry to go watch the Jets game because my whole situation began in the 7:30 range. Only about 90 minutes or so after finishing interviews, I was done with two stories and ready to head to JFK Airport.
Each gate around the concourse has a series of glass doors that exits outside to a plaza which leads to the acres of parking lots. I started walking the concourse and noticed every door was padlocked. And I mean every one. I finally found a couple open and they led to a vestibule in front of some will call windows. Through the vestibule were the doors to the parking lot leading to the Long Island Marriott, which is right across the street (and is where the visiting teams stay).
So I thought I had struck paydirt. How wrong I was. Went into the vestibule and the 20 or so doors leading to the parking lot were not padlocked but they were all locked. OK, so I turned around to go back into the concourse and see if there were any other open doors. Uh-oh. Here's where the problem began.
The doors back into the concourse locked behind me. The doors to the parking lot were locked. I was stuck in the vestibule. Picture an area roughly the width of the gate area inside the HSBC Arena pavilion. So I started banging on the doors leading back inside and yelling. No one around. Not a soul. There's a stairway leading downstairs by a couple restaurants and the MSG studio. No one around. Not a soul.
My flight from JFK was in the 10 p.m. range so that wasn't an issue -- unless I spent hours inside. And how was I getting out? I had no choice. I dialed 911. Nassau County 911 was a little confused.
"There's nothing going on at the Coliseum." Um, there was a hockey game.
"Why didn't you leave with the crowd?" Um, I'm a reporter from Buffalo.
"Just see if you can find an open door." Um, why do you think I'm calling you?
So he finally says they'll send somebody out and to call back in 10 minutes if no one shows. So I'm waiting, pacing the vestibule looking outside. Just then, I see a cleaner pushing a mop bucket inside the concourse disappearing into a closet. I bolted to the doors and started banging. Scared the you-know-what out of the poor guy.
Asked him to open the door and let me in and he said, "You gotta go to Gate 1." Told him I was locked in. Showed him my credential and he let me in, bless his soul.
So I walk around to Gate 1 and, lo and behold, there's one door -- one -- with a hanging, open padlock. Out to the parking lot! Problem solved? Nope. It was pitch black in the lots. Took a while to find the rental car. Problem solved? Nope. Every parking lot exit to the highway gated off. Incredible.
After driving around for another 15 minutes, I finally found the one that was open and headed for JFK.
Thankfully, the flight was uneventful. Except for the one-hour delay -- due to a locked lavatory door. Frozen shut. Landed at 12:50 a.m. Quite a roadie. So you wanna be a sportswriter, huh? Guess the Islanders need to put that little Gate 1 nugget in their game notes.
John Vogl is meeting the Sabres today in Ottawa. I'm taking a well-deserved.