The first year for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York has resulted in a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it will be unlike any other trip to the postseason for this franchise. For the Islanders first 42 years of existence, they called the Nassau Coliseum home as they were Long Island’s hockey team. In the Isles first 12 years as a hockey franchise, they would enjoy great success as they claimed four Stanley Cup Championships. But over the years as Islanders ownership was looking at either a new arena or upgrades to the Nassau Coliseum, they were always met with resistance from county officials which eventually led to them moving to Brooklyn.
The first year in Brooklyn has seen an adjustment period for the Isles who still practice in Long Island and then commute to Brooklyn for their home games via the Long Island Rail Road which stops underneath the Barclays Center. Even with the Islanders traveling woes, they still managed to go 25-11-5 at the Barclays Center this season, but it just wasn’t that same feel when the Isles wore their famed blue jerseys.
In spite of the Islanders playing in the largest media market in the world, they finished this National Hockey League season with third lowest home attendance in the league. The Isles might still call New York home, but the idea of their original fan base in Long Island willing to consistently make the commute to Brooklyn is a pipe dream.
With fares on the Long Island Rail Road consistently increasing and the Downtown Brooklyn area lacking affordable parking, there hasn’t been the rush of residents from Long Island making the trek to New York City to see their beloved Islanders. And once you factor in that the residences surrounding the immediate area where the Barclays Center is located being mainly comprised up of people who are converted New Yorkers, the Islanders home games sound and feel like a minor-league game.
But the Islanders moving to Brooklyn was their best option as the only other possible choices on the table for them would have been to relocate to either Quebec City, Quebec, or Seattle, Washington. And after the Islanders had exhausted all of their options in Nassau County, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman knew that the franchise was in dire straits as he wanted to keep the Islanders in New York City which made the Barclays Center the most logical choice.
However there are several silver linings in these storm clouds for the Islanders as their home games in Brooklyn have allowed more fans that follow some of their key rivals such as the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils to attend games which is good for overall attendance, but that still doesn’t gives the Isles the home-ice advantage that they need. However it is a credit to Islanders head coach Jack Capuano that he has gotten his team to focus and block out the white noise as it could have been very easy for this team to go off of the deep end with all of their commuting issues and true lack of having a home-ice advantage. But the Islanders have persevered all season long in the face of it which could work to their advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin this week, there is the possibility that there could be a bump in attendance for the Islanders being that the stakes have increased and more people might be interested in watching their brand of hockey. But going forward there will have to be an increased effort by the Islanders front office to increase this local support for this club that is talented enough to make a deep run into the postseason as they don’t want to consistently play in an empty arena. The Barclays Center might be nice and shiny, but there is still a large amount of people that consider themselves true fans of the Islanders who really enjoyed the dump that was the Nassau Coliseum which gave the Isles a true home-ice advantage.