BROOKLYN, NY – March 22, 2020, would’ve been the final game inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, against the Carolina Hurricanes, where the New York Islanders have called home the previous five seasons. Following the final whistle of the March 3 contest against Montreal, didn’t seem to be the last one in Brooklyn, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that seems to be the case thus far.
October 24, 2012 will be the day that will forever be etched into the brains of Islanders fans. The date symbolizes the inevitable move to a new home at Barclays Center, by then late-owner, Charles B. Wang.
"It was our goal from day one to keep the Islanders in the local New York area." Wang said during the press conference announcement back in 2012. "We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to play in Barclays Center, a first-class arena. This has been a long journey for the Islanders family starting with our loyal fans, sponsors, and employees. I want to personally thank them for their patience, loyalty, and support.
A long drive on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or a long train ride on the Long Island Rail Road to Atlantic Terminal/Barclays Center would be the icing on the cake for some fans. Attendance would be at or near the bottom of the National Hockey League for the previous five seasons. I was at the first regular season game against Chicago with my friend, Angelo. We carpooled with my other close friend, Nick, and his now ex-girlfriend, Christina. It took us nearly two hours to drive, because I said no to taking the train at the time. I had a bit of claustrophobia on public transportation, let alone Islanders game night, when the LIRR and Islanders fans are both in the unknown how this will all work out. The moment we walked in and split up, Angelo and I were stopped and interviewed by NY1. We mentioned how it was a “nightmare” getting to the Barclays Center. We’re so used to driving 20 minutes to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, on a nightly basis.
Looking back and saying, I’ll hop on the train, or I’ll get in my car and drive the extra 20 or so miles to watch my team play, was worth every penny in my book.
The late Charles B. Wang was not the best owner, but he did everything in his power to keep his New York Islanders in New York. Amidst the continuous objections from Nassau County to build a new arena on the current Nassau Coliseum site, or to build the “Lighthouse” project, he still tried. Not to mention the money issues that came along with all of this. The late Computer Associates CEO and partner, Sanjay Kumar, absorbed a team with a lot of baggage from the Millstein and Gluckstern in 2000. From the start, he wanted to spend money, but had an incompetent and well disliked general manager in Mike Milbury calling the shots.
“'Let's face it, the Coliseum is a dump, and the team, well, they're losers,'' Wang told the New York Times when he bought the team in 2000. ''It's a real shame. We want to see it change because this is our home. We all deserve better.''
Fast forward with the little bit of history that I added, and following numerous attempts stated above to improve the team by getting them a new home, would subsequently move them to Brooklyn (geographically still on Long Island), but in the City of New York.
Wang would eventually sell the team to former Washington Capitals and NBA’s Washington Wizards minority owner, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. The pair would be named majority owners following the 2016-17 season. Side note – the new owners were roommates while studying at Harvard University.
Memories would be made in the building with a limited sightline, as the Islanders became the first team to have a Honda Pilot SUV just behind the corner boards. Why would a team have that instead of seats? Well, the EA Sports NHL video games dating back to 2015, did not feature a car, but would feature seats. One would assume that would be the correct way to go, but we believe, and common sense says, the Islanders were getting more money from Honda then they would have from fans obtaining said rink-side seats at astronomical prices. Memories including this one above, that I was in attendance for, will last a lifetime. For those who do not remember, former captain John Tavares scored a wrap around goal past the Florida Panthers' former goaltender Roberto Luongo in 2OT of Game 6 in the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinal to clinch the team's first playoff series victory since 1993.
Let’s face it, the building was built for basketball without hockey in mind. They made it work. Albeit problems from Barclays management, and once again being second fiddle to the Nets, and even third class to some concerts, it all worked out.
Here are some of the issues the Islanders faced during their time in Brooklyn:
-Limited Views of the ice in multiple sections
-Off-Center scoreboard (jumbo-tron would hang directly over the blue-line right of center ice)
-Beginning of tenure – fans not allowed rinkside for warmups (would change following numerous fan complaints)
-Steep stairs, and infrastructure on the second level
-Experiment with new goal horn to sound like Long Island Railroad train
-$20-40 to park in garage nearly one-three blocks away
-no more tailgating
-PVC piping underneath the floor to keep the ice cold (more below on this)
-Taking the train to the game (players, executives, fans)
Followed by a few pros:
-newer food options
-shorter lines for bathrooms, due to expanded quantity for both men and women
-wider seats, more comfortable
-new jumbotron, better fan experience (some would think)
-club/suites/executive lounge, etc.
The final record inside Barclays Center following the loss to the Montreal Canadiens on March 3, is 85-48-21.
The Islanders will play their remaining games at NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, before they move into their new home at Belmont Park Arena starting in the 2021-22 campaign, thanks to Ledecky and Malkin.
We may complain. We may say “bring the Islanders back home” to our owners in Ledecky and Malkin. And they answered our wish. Despite the lackluster experience in Brooklyn, we must thank them. Otherwise, the New York Islanders could’ve been what the Atlanta Thrashers were nearly a decade ago, the second-coming of the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, the Islanders were second-fiddle to the Brooklyn Nets, and always were the second-class tenant, if you will, they were still in New York. We must continue to emphasize this.
Where Brooklyn at? Jay Z may ask? It's in the past now. And Belmont is officially the light at the end of the tunnel.