There’s no doubt that there were not many Islanders fans that were happy when the team left the Nassau Coliseum in 2015 for the Barclays Center. The reality is that the only fans that embraced it were those Islanders supporters who resided in Brooklyn and New York City because hopping on the subway to Barclays Center is easier than commuting out to Long Island.
The other reality is that without the Barclays Center, the Islanders might be playing in another market right now. Charles Wang, the owner at the time, really had no choice but to move the Islanders to Brooklyn. The team had tried just about everything to get a new arena on Long Island and Wang, who passed away early last season, didn’t want to see the team leave the area completely.
But while the Barclays Center actually saved the Islanders from moving away completely and bought some time for new owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky to find a new home on Long Island with the Belmont Park Arena, it’s time for the team to make an earlier permanent move back home. The Islanders made a part-time return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum with 21 games last season and they will play 28 regular season games at “The Barn” this season when all is said and done.
After Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Brooklyn, there are ten more regular season games scheduled for Barclays Center. But after the March 22nd game against Carolina in Brooklyn, the Islanders should never ever step foot in the building, unless they want to attend a Nets game or some other event because there’s no need for the place anymore. A large majority of the fan base doesn’t want to be there and I’m sure privately the Islanders’ players, coaches, staff and do I dare say the owners would agree.
It’s also my opinion that the Barclays Center doesn’t want them anymore and I’m convinced of that after attending Saturday’s game as a fan. When the Islanders first moved to Brooklyn, there were curious decisions made by Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, especially former top executive Brett Yormark, like not allowing fans to come down to the glass for warmups, the strange sounding goal horn, and the black and white third jerseys. There were also some quirks in the building when it came to hockey like the scoreboard hanging over the blue line and the obstructed view seats, but I always felt that the Islanders in Brooklyn was a better option than the Islanders in Quebec or Seattle.
I, like many Islanders fans, also had a hunch that a return to Long Island was inevitable even with that “ironclad” lease.
Saturday was my first game this season in Brooklyn and it just seems as if the building has already thrown in the towel. The first few years at Barclays Center, the staff was always friendly when welcoming fans to Islanders games there and really the building did everything it could to make Islanders fans feel at home like changing the “Nets Shop” to “Swag Shop” and adding more Islanders images and signs around the arena.
But on Saturday, it really felt awkward watching an Islanders game at Barclays Center. It just didn’t seem like the arena employees were happy to be there while the concession stands, the ones that were open, weren’t staffed very well. Earlier in the week, there was a problem with the horn at the end of periods and on Saturday, I can’t recall any replays being shown on the scoreboard. The fans still seemed to have a good time watching the Islanders win the game, but the building is lame duck and it felt like that on Saturday.
Also, I had lower bowl tickets but at no point did any of the ushers ever ask to see my tickets either during my first entrance to the section or at any time when I left my seat and then returned. I also heard that fans in the upper bowl reported that it was very cold and like a wind tunnel up there And while I thought it was a silly thing back in 2015, I miss the Honda car in the corner by the glass. Maybe he’s picking out a parking spot at Belmont!
The next step needs to be the NHL agreeing to let the Islanders, should they qualify for the post-season, play all of their home playoff games at the Nassau Coliseum. After that, since the shovel is well into the ground and concrete is being poured at Belmont, the Islanders should play all regular season and playoff home games next season in Uniondale before moving into their new home for the 2021-22 season.
At the end of the day, the Islanders and their fans need to thank the Barclays Center for being the stopgap home because without it, the Islanders probably aren’t the Islanders right now. But the time has come to say goodbye to Brooklyn after ten more home games. It’s time for the Islanders to be a full-time Long Island team again because the fans want it and you can’t deny that the team wants it. It’s also obvious that the Barclays Center would rather have other events than Islanders hockey games. The evidence is overwhelming.