On Wednesday October 24, 2012, NHL news of great local relevance arrived. The New York Islanders announced that they will move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning with the 2015-16 season after the team’s lease at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum expires. The Nassau Coliseum has served as the Islanders’ home arena since the team began play in 1972.
On the surface, this announcement seems to be great news for Islander fans. The team will stay in the area(long distance relocation to places such as Kansas City, Missouri and Seattle, Washington had been rumored)and they will play in a state of the art arena.
Though the Nassau Coliseum was not an awful place to watch a hockey game, the building was in a state of structural despair. For example, in 2006, a sewage pipe burst in the Islanders’ dressing room causing significant damage. Coupled with poor on-ice play over the past two decades (the team has not won a playoff series since 1993) a new arena was deemed necessary to improve the franchise’s future prospects.
Though the Islanders are staying in the area and have secured a new arena, there are potential problems with the move. The first problem centers on an ideological question concerning Long Island’s territory. Brooklyn is in the area, and it seems on the Islanders’ official logo. In fact, Brooklyn is geographically part of Long Island.
However, Brooklyn is also a borough of New York City. Many people consider Long Island to consist solely of the suburban Nassau and Suffolk Counties—Queens and Brooklyn (Kings County) may as well be foreign countries. Though this belief is inaccurate geographically, it is strongly held by many Nassau and Suffolk residents, and it may hinder their support of the franchise moving forward.
Deer Park resident and Patch media blogger David Reich-Hale is aware of the conundrum. “Brooklyn is geographically on Long Island. Yes. But it’s not the Long Island metro area,” he said in a recent Patch discussion.
The second potential pitfall associated with the move is one of logistics: the accessibility, or lack thereof, of the Barclays Center to Islanders’ fans. For all of its faults, the Nassau Coliseum was easily accessible by car, and it offered a plethora of parking; parking in Brooklyn is limited, and the easiest way to get to the arena is via mass transit. The Islanders’ fan base is mostly suburban—they rely on their cars. Getting to a game may prove to be more trouble than it’s worth for many fans, especially during the regular season. The transportation problems combined with hockey’s role as a niche sport driven mainly by die-hard fans mean that drawing large crowds consistently may prove to be a problem, even with a good team.
For all of the potential problems associated with the move, it is still a good time to be an Islanders’ fan. At the very least, a clear path for the future has finally been revealed after years of gloom and uncertainty. Fans may love the move or they may hate it. Either way, they now have closure and can move forward as they wish.