The great state of New York hosted a whopping 309 Grateful Dead shows over the course of the band’s 30-year career, ending in 1995. While over half of those shows were in or around the San Francisco-based band’s second home of New York City, the band also cultivated and maintained a significant presence upstate, which started with their infamous gig during a rainstorm on August 16th, 1969 at the iconic Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

As the 2019 NHL playoffs start today, it’s more than appropriate to acknowledge that New York has long been a hotbed for the sport of ice hockey, serving as the home to 3 NHL teams and dozens of minor league, collegiate and junior teams. The city of Lake Placid was also the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics, where the USA men’s ice hockey team staged their “Miracle On Ice” en route to winning one of the most unlikely gold medals in Olympic history.

On Tour With The Grateful Dead 1987: Reliving The First East Coast Shows After Jerry Garcia’s Coma [Full Videos/Audio]

The Grateful Dead, pro hockey, and New York all intersected very nicely in April 1982, when the Grateful Dead played five straight shows in New York hockey arenas during their spring tour. While this tour’s most famous show is the Philadelphia Spectrum show on April 6th (listen below), this week in New York was an eventful one for both the Grateful Dead and for hockey. This was also the first tour where lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh had switched stage positions, so Garcia was now left of center next to keyboardist/vocalist Brent Mydland while Lesh moved out to stage right—the stage plot that would remain for the remainder of the Dead’s career, spawning the terms “Phil side” and “Brent side” amongst latter-day Deadheads.

Grateful Dead – Philadelphia, PA – 4/6/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

The week kicked off on April 8th in Syracuse, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena. The arena has been home to five minor league hockey teams since opening in 1951 and is the current home of the Syracuse Crunch, but in hockey lore it’s most famous as the filming location for the legendary scene in the 1977 hockey comedy film, Slap Shot, when the Charlestown Chiefs’ infamous Hanson brothers climb into the stands to fight with the opposing team’s fans.

Slap Shot Fight Clip

However, the Grateful Dead brought a decidedly more peaceful vibe with them on this night, delivering the last of the seven shows they would play at this venue over 11 years. The band’s performance on this night was solid, with highlights coming by way of a particularly strong night from rhythm guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir. The first set featured a strong “Let It Grow”, while the second set was anchored by “Playing In The Band”, “Estimated Prophet”, and a strong version of “Not Fade Away” emitting from the “Space” segment of the show.

Grateful Dead – Syracuse, NY – 4/8/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

The following night found the band 88 miles west at the Rochester War Memorial, which was built in 1955 and has remained the home of the AHL’s Rochester Americans since 1956. In 1982, the “Amerks” were on an upswing that would culminate in Calder Cup championships in 1983 and 1987 and a trip to the finals in 1984. On April 9th, 1982, the Dead were on an upswing of their own from the previous night’s show. The first set was highlighted by an “Alabama Getaway” > “Greatest Story Ever Told” opening duo, a nice “Bird Song”, and a set-closing “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider”. The second set raised the bar even further with a rare second-set appearance of “To Lay Me Down” and an excellent set-closing run of “The Other One” > “Stella Blue” > “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”. The set closed with a cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “Satisfaction”—and when a Dead show contained a version of the Rolling Stones classic, it was almost always a sign that the band was having a hot night. As Bob revealed in David Gans and Peter Simon’s 1985 book, Playing in the Band, “‘Satisfaction’ just came up one night…one of those little clouds of madness that drifted across the stage. We do it every now and then, usually when I‘m feeling pretty ringy. We have never done that one remotely the same way twice, and obviously we’ve never, ever rehearsed it. There are a number of songs we’ve never rehearsed, but ‘Satisfaction’ is one of the songs that rehearsal would ruin.”

Grateful Dead – Rochester, NY – 4/9/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

Saturday, April 10th, 1982 was an off-day for the Grateful Dead, but not for Jerry Garcia, who took the opportunity to sneak across state lines to New Jersey to play not one but two solo acoustic shows at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, with the second one running until after 2:00 am.

Jerry Garcia Solo Acoustic – Passaic, NJ – 4/10/18 – Full Audio (Early Show)

[Uploaded by nognuisagoodgnu]

Jerry Garcia Solo Acoustic – Passaic, NJ – 4/10/18 – Full Audio (Late Show)

[Uploaded by nognuisagoodgnu]

Garcia’s late night may explain the slower start to the Grateful Dead’s first of two shows at Long Island’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on April 11th, 1982. Known colloquially as “Nassau” by both Deadheads and hockey fans, the building was the full-time (and now part-time) home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, who in April 1982 were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Nassau opened in 1972 for the Islanders’ debut season, and the Dead would ultimately play 42 shows there over 12 multi-night runs from 1973 through 1994.

The first set on April 11th had a somewhat slower vibe at times, but it was ultimately redeemed by nice versions of “Althea”, “Beat It On Down The Line” and “Let It Grow”. The second set featured a traditional Sunday airing of “Samson and Delilah” followed by a non-traditional second set version of Mydland original “Never Trust A Woman” and a “Truckin’” that generated the loud and expected cheers as its lines about Buffalo and New York were delivered.

Grateful Dead – Uniondale, NY – 4/11/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

However, the Dead returned to Nassau the following night and delivered the strongest start-to-finish show of the five-show run in the state. Opening with then-rarity “Iko Iko” was a good omen, and other highlights came from a mid-set “Bird Song” and the closing pairing of “Looks Like Rain” and “Deal”. Meanwhile, the second set hit greater heights with new addition “Man Smart Woman Smarter” as the opener followed by a lengthy, sparkling “Sugaree”. A standout version of “Estimated Prophet” followed (complete with a second “mid-song” solo at its conclusion) before dropping into “Uncle John’s Band”, and “The Other One” that came out of “Space” was deep enough to trick Bob into accidentally signing its second verse twice. In addition, for the second time in a week, “Satisfaction” appeared. This time, the Stones classic served as the encore, and as the lights came up, those famously invisible clouds of Grateful Dead magic were left hanging in the Nassau’s rafters.

Grateful Dead – Uniondale, NY – 4/12/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

As it turned out, Nassau’s primary tenants had some use for that magic. The very next night, the defending-champ Islanders were trailing 3-1 with less than 6 minutes left in the deciding game of a first-round playoff series with the then-lowly Pittsburgh Penguins, a sub-.500 team who had miraculously hung around despite being severely overmatched. But when all seemed lost, the Islanders scored two late goals to tie the game and then went on to win by scoring early in sudden-death overtime. The Islanders admitted the Penguins “scared us half to death” before going on to win their third of four consecutive Stanley Cups (NHL link below). The Islanders would not actually lose a playoff series until the 1984 finals, when they were finally dethroned by the Edmonton Oilers and their 23-year-old wunderkind Wayne Gretzky.

Islanders vs. Penguins – 1982 Stanley Cup Playoffs – Nassau Coliseum

[Video: Disengage]

While that hockey magic played out on Long Island, the Grateful Dead also made a little history of their own that day when Jerry and Bob made the first of five appearances by Grateful Dead members on Late Night with David Letterman, where they engaged in humorous chatter with Dave and played acoustic versions of “Deep Elem Blues” and “Monkey and the Engineer”.

Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir On Letterman – 4/13/82

Last but not least, the band finished out their week of gigs in New York hockey arenas by heading back upstate to Glens Falls, NY. The compact 4,974-capacity Glens Falls Civic Center was built in 1977 and was then the home of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings who, in April 1982, were the defending Calder Cup champions—the first of four Calder Cups they would win over the next decade. Since 2015, the arena has been home to the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.

The Dead rounded out this week with one of the best first sets of the year featuring a “Jack Straw” opener, a big early surprise in the form of an electric “Deep Elem Blues” that was doubtlessly prompted by its acoustic performance on TV the night before, a welcome “Lazy Lightning” > “Supplication” with a couple lyrical miscues, and a fiery “Bertha” to end the set. The second set opened with an unusually long, involved “China Cat Sunflower” that segued into the expected “I Know You Rider”. That was followed by the biggest highlight from these five shows: one of the finest versions of “Playing In The Band” from the era, a 16-minute version that a featured Bob using a slide to beautiful effect before yielding the stage to allow drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart to deliver their nightly, spirited and improvised duet.

Grateful Dead – Glens Falls, NY – 4/14/82 – Full Audio

[Audio uploaded by Jonathan Aizen]

From there, the band would leave New York for shows in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maryland to finish out the spring tour, but all things considered, it was a solid week of business for the Grateful Dead, the state of New York, and four of its hockey arenas. Hopefully, someone from the New York Islanders sent a thank you note to the Grateful Dead.