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After altercation, Barclays Center dials back policy allowing later-than-recommended alcohol sales during hockey games; will probe arena-fan relations

In the wake of an altercation between fans and security officers at the Barclays Center Tuesday, the arena announced several policy changes, which were summarized, in flattering fashion, by the Daily News and Post as cutting off alcohol sales "early."

(Also see coverage in NewsdaySports Illustrated, and the Times. Also note the criticism, as described below, of the overall policy changes.)

Indeed, by ending sale of alcohol by the end of the second period--as opposed to the 12-minute mark of the third period--the Barclays Center will cut booze off earlier. (Note that the 12-minute mark of the third period is 8 minutes in.)

But the policy change obscures the fact that arena's previously policy was rather aggressive, compared to some other arenas and recommended best practices, and the arena is only now adopting best practices. That suggests that (duh) they were trying to reap the most revenue.

True, as the Daily News stated, the National Hockey League (NHL) does not have a league policy on alcohol sales. 

Best practice = third period cutoff

But the TEAM Coalition (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management), an alliance of professional and collegiate sports, entertainment facilities, and others, including the NHL, has recommended policies, approved by member organizations.

The policies "represent the mode (most frequently reported value) for all sports venues representing TEAM Coalition member leagues," and that includes alcohol cutoff for NHL games after the second period.

It's not easy to figure out what other venues follow the TEAM policies. But some are clearly more stringent than the Barclays Center's previous policy. 

At the TD Garden in Boston, alcohol service will end at least one hour prior to the scheduled end of an event, which is surely before the third period in hockey.

(Update: At the American Airlines Center in Dallas, alcohol sales end at the seven minute mark of the third period for NHL games. I should clarify that this is later than the 12-minute mark, but seems very, very late.)

Barclays Center statement

Here's the full statement:
On Tuesday night, December 15, there was an altercation during an Islanders game when arena staff tried to restrict guests from accessing an unauthorized area. Management immediately initiated an investigation, including reviewing all videos, meeting with staff and speaking to fans who were involved in, or witnessed, the incident. Law enforcement authorities were also notified of the incident. Any parties found to have acted inappropriately or in violation of arena policies will be dealt with accordingly. 
Barclays Center is immediately implementing the following five-point plan to help prevent incidents like this from happening again during Islanders games:
  • Reinforce security and guest services training with staff.
  • Further communicate Barclays Center alcohol policies to fans, which includes two drink per purchase limit.
  • End beer and alcohol sales at the end of the second intermission.
  • Convene season ticket holder focus groups within 30 days to discuss arena-fan relations.
  • Remind all guests of Barclays Center’s zero tolerance for any type of racial or discriminatory language or behavior.
The reaction

Hockey writer B.D. Gallof tweeted, "@barclayscenter this is not enough. This is striking out in all directions which shows no clue to what transpired." He added, " 1. Ongoing fan focus groups for fan relations for staff and mgt until you “get it” 2. Security review 3. Better oversight."

Note that the Barclays Center statement did not reference the fact that fans are disappointed that arena policies regarding movement of fans in the building, as compared to the previous Nassau Coliseum venue, are far more strict. Also note comment on Gallof's tweet said that one staffer did give permission for people later involved in altercation to take picture.

Here are some interesting takes from IslesBlog:
  • fans certainly responsible as well. Not sole blame on Barclays
  • Is Barclays saying security needs different training methods for handling hockey fans compared to basketball fans? Does any arena do that?\
  • You can be the most sober, cordial, respectful fan ever and noticed that security / ushers were consistently confrontational without cause.
  • I don't fundamentally disagree with any of the "5 Point Plan" but there was a failure to see this issue was brewing since September.
  • Let's also realize most of the drinking happening is on @LIRR BEFORE the #Isles
  • Still, their refusal of talking any responsibility in the wrongdoing and not offer any kind of a apology to the fans is just another misstep
  • I'm not saying @barclayscenter is 100% responsible. They weren't. I was there (unlike many that have commented on this since).
Also note that the arena's focus on ticketholders obscures concern from neighbors about the behavior of hockey fans outside the building, as noted by resident Regina Cahill, "how about also focusing on behaviors outside of arena."

And yes, one element of tension between staff and hockey fans emerged in this tweet, "@StapeNewsday how bout one white employee other than the first bar when you walk in @barclayscenter?"

Wrote Dan Saraceni at Lighthouse Hockey, before the policy change:
However the system broke down at Barclays, it did. Fair or not, it's up to the arena to make sure the next time it happens - and I've been to more than enough games to know there will be a next time - the staff is better organized and prepared to handle the situation.