(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
So here we are 10 games into the season and the Islanders are looking pretty good. After tonight’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Isles – thanks to the loser’s point – are now tied with the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
It’s a team that deserves more attention, but for some reason the move to Brooklyn isn’t going as swimmingly as the hockey team.
Although the announced crowd was 11,494 there were more than just a few thousand empty seats at the Barclays Center. An arena not built for hockey, there were many empty sections in the obstructed areas and the black seats of the arena pretty much stand out when they are not being used.
The Isles are in a kind of a tough situation because they lost many long time season ticket holders with the move west. The team was counting on the fan base following along on the Long Island Railroad, but understand, the hockey fans out there that like to take trains to games are already Ranger fans.
Part of the charm of being an Islander fan is being able to drive 20 minutes from your house to the game. That culture is now gone and with it a large chunk of the base.
How do you get it back?
Well, the Islanders need to make a conscience decision to market the team to Brooklyn. Like the Dodgers of yore and their current brethren the Nets, Brooklyn tends to like teams that it can call its own. Right now the Isles are trying to have their cake and eat it too, catering to what’s left of its Long Island fan base, which wants every change to go through a Papal scrutiny and the new Brooklyn market, which the organization hopes comes out because it’s something new to do in town.
It’s not working.
The Barclays Center received a ton of criticism in September when they changed the goal horn and introduced the black and white third jersey. Traditionalist Islander fans were outraged for some reason. The team caved on the goal horn, returning to the Long Island boat sound rather than the train whistle that was introduced during the preseason, but kept the third jersey.
That Wisdom of Solomon thinking may work now, but the Islanders shouldn’t cave in the future. Remember this team would not be even playing in Brooklyn if their Long Island fan base actually came out to games, even when the team was losing and also voted for the Nassau Coliseum referendum back in 2011. Neither happened, so now the Islanders play in the 718 area code.
And to be successful in Kings County, the Isles need to embrace Brooklyn. They need to move their operations here and get embedded into the community. Have players go to the local schools and fire houses, donate to Brooklyn causes. Sparky The Dragon didn’t make the move, so come up with a new mascot and create a Brooklyn culture.
Speaking of which, the Isles should also embrace the New York/Brooklyn Americans. The other New York team that started before the Rangers made hockey a hit in New York. The Rangers eventually put them out of business. What better way to make a few NHL waves than to honor them in Barclays. Maybe even wear Amerks jerseys that night. That’s sure to be a seller.
Something also needs to be done with the obstructed seats. Instead of charging 40 bucks and have a large portion of the arena empty, why not charge $5. Put the fannies in the seats and make money from the concessions. And remember you are forcing your Long Island fans to pay the LIRR fees, so maybe something cheap will get them out too.
There’s plenty more the Isles can do. With a first place team on the ice, they have a nice product, now they just have to market it properly.