Over the last couple of years, whenever the Barclays Center was brought up being the home of the New York Islanders, some wise bird would point out Brooklyn was part of Long Island.
As anyone, who has grown up in the area knows, Brooklyn and Queens are New York City, while Nassau and Suffolk are referred to as Long Island. (For that matter, if someone says they are going to “The City,” they are saying they are going into Manhattan.)
So today, as Governor Cuomo announced the Islanders new arena at Belmont, there was something so right about this. The franchise feels whole again.
“The Islanders are back where they belong and that’s what today is all about,” Cuomo said. “It’s a great day for the team, the fans and a great day for Long Island.”
Look, this wasn’t the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn and the team was only an hour or so away from their original home. It’s not like Hartford losing the Whalers or Quebec City without the Nordiques. Every Islander fan could see their team if they wanted to.
But they didn’t want to.
As someone who lived in Nassau County for 11 years, I knew many Islander fans, who went to all 42 games -win or lose – that gave up their tickets when the team went to Brooklyn. It wasn’t like they were going to root for another team. No way. It was just that they lost their fan experience.
You see, part of being an Islander fan is the ability to have the team 10 to 20 minutes away from your home. You can drive to the game and maybe even tailgate. It was a community thing where the fans knew each other no matter if they are from the Five Towns or Oyster Bay.
Take the train to the game with the arena above the station? That’s what Ranger fans do and by no means will any self-respecting Islander fan will be taking up their habits.
And that’s why there’s joy in Massapequa today. And in Huntington. And Glen Cove. The Long Island sports way of life is coming back.
You have to wonder if the Barclays Center people were more hospitable to a hockey team would this day have happened. Everyone knows the team is shoehorned in there and the ice doesn’t freeze too well in the rink. If any of these things were changed in the last few years, you might have had an NYCFC presser today.
As a Queens boy, Cuomo knew what this team means to Nassau and Suffolk. Any good plan would have been accepted. And now the challenging work begins.
The Islanders need to work out getting of the lease with the Barclays Center and also need a place to play after next season. And even though the plan has been approved, there still will be a NIMBY lawsuit or two, which needs to be dealt with.
Those things can be dealt with after the new year. Today has been a day of joy and an early Christmas present for the long-suffering fans.
The Islanders are coming back to Nassau and that means Long Island is whole again.