Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hockey debuts at Barclays Center with big crowd, buzz, mixed reviews from fans

The first hockey game at the Barclays Center sold more tickets than anticipated--14,689 (of 15,813 capacity), vs. an originally expected 11,000--and got positive reviews from players (duh) and mixed reviews from fans.

The exhibition game between the New York Islanders (due at the Barclays Center in 2015 or earlier) and the New Jersey Devils was the first to test the arena's odd configuration, as well a fan base significantly from Long Island. There were large crowds streaming to the Long Island Rail Road station even before the game was ending--the Islanders were about to lose, 3-0--and crowded trains.

After the game, in a very quick canvass, I saw a few drunk people on the streets--we'll see how much that's an issue, though one neighbor called hockey fans the "rowdiest"--some fans heading to bars on Fifth Avenue, and no one heading along Flatbush past Sixth Avenue.

No tailgating

One pregame ritual outside the Coliseum will be lost in Brooklyn.
“There’s no place for tailgating,” said Megan Leach, 23, who lives in Medford and took the Long Island Rail Road from Ronkonkoma to Brooklyn, about a 90-minute trip. “That changes the whole dynamic of going to Islander games.”
Leach said the year-old Barclays Center, built initially for basketball and concerts, was wanting.
“You get the creature comforts of a new arena, but I was unimpressed with the spectator area,” she said. “There were a lot of terrible sight lines.”
So how might that pre-game ritual be re-enacted?

Positive players

Islanders were positive:
“It’s an unbelievably cool place,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said. “It makes you look forward to being here. I thought the rink was great.”
Similarly, ESPN, in Isles fans weigh in on Barclays Center, found happy players:
“The atmosphere was great and it was a lot of fun to play in this building, so that part was good,” said 2013 Hart Trophy finalist John Tavares, recently named the team’s new captain. 
Questionable configuration

ESPN noted that the arena was designed for hoops, not hockey, so there were obstructed views and lousy site lines:
“It’s a hockey rink crammed into a concert hall,” said Chris Elwood, 32, of Babylon.

Elwood came with his daughter and a group of her Lady Islanders 12-and-under hockey team (which played on the ice earlier that day) and had trouble seeing the action when the puck was behind the net closest to the West End area.

Seth Polan had a similar complaint, though he was seated much closer to the ice in section 009, row 14, seat 8. The 44-year-old Polan said he and his buddies had a tough time seeing the right corner of the ice, though that was partly because they had such "prime seats."

After one period of play, he wasn’t ready to weigh in just yet.

"It's too early," said the Holbrook resident.
One friend liked the configuration, and others complained about not being able to smoke. (Hey, if the arena's practice regarding some concerts gets transposed to hockey, a lot of people will get away with smoking, at least if it's pot.)

New York weighs in [updated]

Joe DeLessio of New York magazine offered a later, skeptical take, in There Are Some Pretty Bad Seats for Hockey at Barclays Center:
“They’re selling these?”
That’s the first thing I overheard on Saturday night as I approached the seating bowl on the west side of Barclays Center, hours before the puck dropped in the arena’s first-ever hockey game — a preseason matchup between the Islanders and Devils. I'd soon be thinking the same thing as the arena worker who said it: Views of one of the nets are obstructed from these lower-levels sections just behind the goal, where three rows form an overhang that ends just above the glass. From the third of these three rows, not only can one not see the near goal, but one can’t see anything below the face-off dots in the near zone. The upper-level sections behind this goal on the west end of the arena aren't much better, offering similarly poor sightlines where one can’t see the net itself. In two years, the Islanders will call this arena home. No significant changes to the seating bowl are planned before then.

Here’s the thing about watching a hockey game at Barclays Center: From most of the seats in the arena, the sightlines are fine. The east end of the arena wraps around the boards the way it would in any modern hockey arena, and clear views of the rink can be had on the north and south sides of the ice as well. The fact that the center-hung scoreboard hangs above one of the blue lines can be forgiven, because ultimately no one goes to a hockey game to watch a scoreboard. This asymmetrical arrangement is necessary because the arena was built with the smaller dimensions of a basketball court in mind. But the result is hundreds of seats on the west side of the arena with obstructed views.
He uncovers some sneakiness:
Last year, when the Islanders were scheduled to play the Devils in a preseason game at Barclays, the seating chart for the game showed that most seats on the west end of the arena wouldn’t be sold, thus giving the hockey seating bowl a sort of horseshoe shape. (That game was never played because of the NHL lockout.) And when the Islanders announced plans to move into Barclays last year, they said the arena’s hockey capacity was at 14,500 but could possibly be bumped up to 15,000 or "15,000 plus." The official hockey capacity is now 15,813. But no major renovations took place; the arena simply decided to sell the obstructed-view seats. It’s not false advertising — the seats are labeled as “limited view,” and they’re less expensive than they’d otherwise be — but the arena doesn’t exactly broadcast the fact that the west end of the arena is far from ideal for hockey. (A Barclays Center spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a question about the decision to sell these seats or a request for a chart of the 416 seats in the hockey configuration that Yormark said last week wouldn't be offered for sale because of sightline issues.)
It depends on your perspective:
When Barclays officials talk about how the sightlines are great for hockey, they mean everywhere but the west end of the arena. To be sure, there were thousands of fans at Barclays on Saturday who should have had no complaints about their view. But sightlines wrapping from corner to corner behind the west net are problematic, and that’s not an insignificant number of seats. It’s hard to imagine Barclays would sell tickets to a Nets game where one of the baskets wasn’t visible, particularly while boasting about the sightlines and “intimate” environment.
...Then again, there’s another way of looking at the existence of so many obstructed-view seats. Lou Vitale, a longtime Islanders fan from the Upper East Side who sat in the upper level behind the west goal on Saturday night, said the view from those seats was “the one flaw” in an otherwise state-of-the-art building.

Good vibes from Daily News, Newsday, NHL.com

The oft-cheerleading New York Daily News, In future home, Islanders fall to Devils, 3-0, during exhibition game at Barclays Center, reported:
Hockey’s debut in Brooklyn seemed to be met with positive feedback from players and fans alike.
“We have season tickets out at the Coliseum and to be totally honest, I won’t miss the place,” said one fan from Yonkers who sat in Section 111. “The fact that I can sit here talking to you in the corridor here and not get bumped into, standing in front of a men’s room with no line, at a sporting event, that’s everything.”
Interestingly enough, Newsday, which is owned by the owners of the New York Rangers (which also bid to renovate the Nassau Coliseum) and might be expected to be tough, was also positive, in Islanders fans instantly take liking to Barclays Center:
The ice looked nice, with the big Islanders logo in the middle. Cartier said the sound system emitted a theater organ ambience. But it did seem odd to see black curtains behind one of the goals. In the asymmetrical rink setup, there was no room for ice-level seats at one end. Some seats upstairs had obstructed views. The scoreboard was perched over one of the blue lines.
"I'm a coach, not an architect, but I think it will be fine for hockey," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said before the preseason game. "It's got two benches. It doesn't matter where the clock is. If they get 15,000 people in here, it looks like it will be a great venue."
According to NHL.com, Islanders excited by first game in Brooklyn:
Their four Stanley Cup banners were hanging from the rafters, albeit temporarily. Their organ was here. Roger Luce, their public address announcer, was here. Their owner, Charles Wang, was here and dropped the ceremonial puck alongside Bruce Ratner, the visionary behind Barclays Center and the man responsible for bringing major-league sports back to Brooklyn (the NBA's Nets moved in one year ago).
A crowd of 14,689 witnessed the first NHL game to be held in this borough and created a boisterous atmosphere. This wasn't your average preseason game...
Judging by the atmosphere Saturday night, Brooklyn is excited they're coming.
One commenter, HandsomeRick, however, groused:
I was at the game. Sight lines are terrible. You cannot see the goal or faceoff circles on one side. It didn't feel like I was at a hockey game. The commute was terrible. The Isladers promote it that it is easy to get to, it is not. It takes almost 2 hours by train. It will cost about $80.00 round trip to take a family of 4 for just the LIRR. That is not including price for the game. I am not renewing my season tickets when they move.
Mixed views from NJ

NorthJersey.com reported Hockey: Differering views for first NHL game at Barclays Center :
Those at Barclays Center on Saturday night for the first NHL game in Brooklyn found varied ways, both good and bad, to describe the Islanders’ future home.
"Cookie-cutter," was not among them.
Many fans enjoyed the easy train transportation, especially compared to getting to Nassau Coliseum, though Islander fans living on Long Island felt otherwise. The unique sightlines were definitely a topic of discussion and players added the building was too warm, making the ice condition poor.
"It’s a beautiful building and it’s easy to get to," said Peter Doerr, 42, a Devils’ fan from South Plainfield. "But I don’t think it’s going to be a good hockey building. I’d love to see a concert here."
Still, a crowd of 14,689 nearly filled the building....
"It was very bright and easy to see pucks," Devils goalie Cory Schneider said. "But they had black seats. If they’re empty, the puck is sort of lost in the black. It is a little strange with no seats at that one end. It kind of reminded me of some American [Hockey] League buildings or a college building. But I think it’s kind of cool, with people up against the glass."
The fans are mixed

Commenters on IslandersPointBlank were mixed, including:
--Much better than I had expected (for hockey layout). Was somewhat familiar with arena having gone to some Nets games last season. Insofar as the arena is concerned, prefer the greater choice of food than the crap at Coli. Also was very impressed with the much larger number of stalls in ladies' room. As for travel; I got back to my apartment at 10:08 - normally am lucky to get home from Coli by 11:30, and that's if I make the 10:13.
--Could not see one of the two goalies for two periods for an nhl game.
Zero stars.
-- I made sure to buy tickets on the side of the arena where I knew I'd have zero chance of an obstructed view. My sightlines were flawless and even though I was in the very last row I had no problem seeing who was on the ice and following the game. During the first intermission they weren't letting people use the stairs to get to the lower concourse so it was just as packed as the NVMC. Other than that, the LIRR train was super convenient, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was great until the team went limp.

--Arena it self is awesome. State of the art, does not compare to the coliseum.
However for actually watching the game? Not great. Granted I was in an obstructed view section so I saw everything but the closest corner which was very annoying. The screen is a square so where I was sitting I didn't have a straight view of either screen so following the game when it was in the defense end was not great.
--overall experince a 3 . section 225, $43. commute easier than expected, no complaints there. Buiding and Amenties awesome, no compaints there. view from seats - poor angle so steep that if someone leans forward, you cant see. no control over people movemet, so people getting up and down all times. Building definitely not built for hckey, but there is room for improvement if they care to.
--The view from my seats were really good. I got to see everything. My main issue was the all black. I know you can't hold that against anyone, but it felt like a morgue. There was no feeling to the stadium. Also, with no seating behind the goalie it felt like a hockey rink that was put up in come convention center for a tournament. It didn't feel like a NHL game. They NEED to do something with the seating to justify ticket prices if they keep it like this.
I live in Jamaica and the trip was all of 20 minutes and simple.
--Seats weren't as bad for only 20 bucks, although trying to see Nabby [goaltender Evgeni Nabokov] for 1st and 3rd was a struggle. The defensive zone looks terrible, the ice is literally under the seats. I can't believe they actually sell seats where you can't see one net. Certain sections are closed to try and get better views for fans but didnt work well. I was very pleased to see such a great turnout. Scoreboard wasnt an issue, looked nice and big. The lines for venders on the concourse I thought were terribly long and its not that roomy. It felt smaller then the old barn. Commuting to the game was great, coming home was awful. Took me 2 hours to get home to Oceanside, with 1/2hr transfer in Jamaica. I wont be making many trips come 2015. Overall experience: 2

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