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The end of Isles' hockey at Barclays: team returning full-time to Nassau Coliseum next year and for playoffs

It began with a scoop by (and/or leak to) a friendly journalist, Newsday editorial writer Randi Marshall, who two days ago posted Sources: Cuomo expected to announce Isles playing next season at Coliseum. And the announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, always ready to play munificent leader, came yesterday.

After an awkward plan to split home games and playoffs between the Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center during the expected three seasons of Belmont park arena construction--which turned into 28 home games in Nassau and 13 in Brooklyn in this, the second year--the Isles will play all playoffs this year and next, and all home games in Nassau.

That's a relief for players, who live (and practice) on Long Island, and avoid an awkward commute that began with the 2015-16 season and a purported "ironclad" 25-year move to Brooklyn.

 And it's good for the heart of the team's historic fan base on Long Island (who enjoy tailgating in the parking lot), though frustrating for New York-based fans and those with jobs in New York City that made the commute easier. It's a victory for Long Island politicians.

It also represents a reversal of sorts by the National Hockey League, which has previously called the Coliseum, which seats only 13,917, too small for the league. (It also has no mass transit access, unlike Barclays and Belmont.) The Barclays Center, built for basketball, seats 15,795 for hockey, albeit with many obstructed-view seats, and has far more luxury suites--a benefit at least when high rollers want to attend.



Possible tweaks at playoffs, but many happy

 “[Islanders GM] Lou [Lamoriello] hates when I talk about that, but if it happens, we may have to erect some temporary facilities in the parking lot to accommodate the media and do certain VIP hospitality food options and rest room facilities,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, according to Newsday's Neil Best. “We’re mindful of the magnitude that our events can take on as the season progresses, and the Islanders are committed to doing what they have to do to make sure we have a tenable situation.”

Nassau Coliseum operators, Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim, are happy. And the operators of Barclays, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai's J Tsai Sports, are probably happy too, because the Islanders proved to be a financial albatross, and freeing up hockey dates likely allows for more lucrative substitutions.

Official spin

Here's the official announcement yesterday, Governor Cuomo Announces New York Islanders Will Return to Long Island One Year Ahead of Schedule, which contains this subheading "$6 Million In State-Funded Upgrades To The Coliseum Allow Islanders To Play Final Season At 'The Barn' Before Moving To Belmont" and states:
The team is able to play at the Coliseum as a result of $6 million in state-funded upgrades to the building's infrastructure.
...The $6 million in state-funded upgrades brought the building up to minimum NHL standards. Improvements included renovating team locker rooms, installing new cabling infrastructure and related modern broadcast media equipment, establishing additional dehumidification measures, setting up ice plant redundancy systems, and upgrading the building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.
That, of course, is rather disingenuous, because those upgrades came before the Isles returned, and were not enough, until recently, for the NHL to sign on.

The press release states that "construction on the new Belmont Park Arena continues at a brisk pace" and, of course, fudges the fiscal story, calling it a "privately funded $1.3 billion" project and says the new Elmont Station on the LIRR "will be primarily funded by the arena developer," leaving out cheap land and generous terms.

Happy fans, happy team

Newsday quoted North Merrick fan Brian Martin saying "Brooklyn was a weird fit” and calling the tirp to Brooklyn a “horrendous ride.”

“Things will be normal,” Isles coach Barry Trotz told Newsday. “Having two rinks is not normal in the NHL, so getting back to normal will be good.”

Then again, as Andrew Gross wrote,  "Oddly, the Islanders are 7-0-3 at Barclays and a so-so 13-8-2 at the Coliseum this season."

Some fan comments

On Lighthouse Hockey, there were some mixed emotions. One wrote:
Not popular, but...
Barclays is a better arena. Better food, more rest rooms, wider concourse. Yeah. I know you can’t see part of the ice from some seats. So don’t sit there. I am a season ticket holder and I like my seats just fine. And my children who live in the City can meet me for weekday night games. At least in some ways, I’ll miss it until Belmont opens. Fire away.
A response:
Disagree
It’s not just the bad seats. The atmosphere is usually worse and feels fake. There’s too much synthetic noise when they blare the sirens and music there. The concourse, while better, has really gone downhill over the years. There are less and less options to eat/drink each time I go there. I feel like half of the food/drink stands are closed these days. Most importantly, the Coliseum has tailgating. Barclays can’t compete with that. The one major advantage that Barclays has is the bathrooms, but that’s about it.
Another:
Agree...
Although the food and experience has really gone down hill the last three years.
And a disturbing story:
I was a big booster of Barclays, but I was wrong
I approve of this despite the possibility of never being able to make another Islanders game after I see my last three games at Barclays this month. I’m in Manhattan and I don’t have a car.
I was a full season-ticket holder in the first season and they treated me like absolute garbage. It was also a nightmare being locked in at $45 a ticket when the person next to me paid $10—-not from the secondary market—-but directly from the desperate Islanders.
A few years later, I was linked on these pages by Dan Saraceni. I made the front page of the Sunday NY Post. I was also on the local NBC news in NYC and didn’t bother doing an "Inside Edition" interview. A fan fell on me, my neck and my back—-the uppers are nightmares, the aisles are thin, and there are no railings. I was wheeled out on a gurney, taken to hospital, felt like shit but was luckily released. The Barclays and the Islanders refused to cooperate, release the accident report, etc. They refused to pay for my ambulance, ER stay, doctor, etc. I sued and settled out of court. The Barclays is run by thugs. The Islanders org didn’t do much of anything decent, either, quite honesty.
This year? They are worse than the TSA. I’m old and survived cancer. I need meds. They now make me show my ID when I enter to make sure the meds are mine—-they even have an extra gestapo security fuck to do this Rx inspection. Who gives them the right to do this??? (Actually, we do, but that’s an issue for another type of blog.)
And yes, half the food merchants are closed during Islander games, it’s a tourist venue for the opposition, and the atmosphere sucks ass.
One question is whether Belmont will in fact sell out, with 17,000+ seats, given Isles' struggles today.

Update: from Eye on Isles

In Eye on Isles, Matt O'Leary wrote 3/2/20 Islanders: Final Thoughts On Barclays Center Experiment:
99.9 percent of players, fans, and media members are happy with this decision but there's a small minority who will miss the Barclays Center. As someone who has gone to countless games in that arena over the past five years, I will not.
From the beginning, it was never going to work. Yes, the Islanders had no other choice when Nassau Coliseum closed its doors for renovations in 2015 but the Barclays Center wasn't all that accommodating.
When you stepped foot in that building it didn't feel like the Islanders home. It felt like a neutral site game as the seats were black, the decor, in general, was dark and more geared towards the Brooklyn Nets.
Yes, over time, the Islanders had more than just the Stanley Cup banners make their way over to the Barc but even after that the full sections of obstructed views, off-centered scoreboard, and Honda SUV behind the glass felt more like a black eye on this once-proud franchise.
For the 2015-2016 season, the Islanders added a black and white alternate jersey which was arguably the ugliest sweater in Isles history. It had zero representation to the Islanders heritage and was about as plain jane as could be.
Some comments:
Barclays Center has better amenities (bigger concourse, more bathrooms (that are bigger too), more food options, etc.). It also has two concourses. The Coli has little food options, smaller/fewer bathrooms, and one small concourse. That’s the one thing that’s better about Barclays Center, in my opinion. The atmosphere and views is what I care about the most, and obviously the Coliseum wins those.
Another:
I fear this entitled fan base if going to make the same mistakes in Belmont that they did in Barclays. Barclays should have worked. Yes, there were a number of things that were not ideal with the arena, but you were never going to get a better opportunity to build on this teams fan base without moving to a different city. Unfortunate, the fans fought everything Brooklyn every step of the way, but didn’t come out and support the team once they caved to their demands. That was ownerships mistake caving to a fan base that screams about everything but doesn’t dip into their pockets.
Another:
I'm probably a very small minority, but I'm a fairly new Islanders fan and Barclays Center is a big reason for that. Granted, I used to live walking distance from Barclays and now live in Queens. The trip via Subway now is still better than driving to the Coli and paying $20 to park (I did take the LIRR once, what a nightmare). I'm glad I'll be enjoying the last game in Brooklyn with my daughter later this month. I'm sure I'll be to fewer games next season. I think the "Brooklyn Experiment" did expose the team to some new fans, well, at least 4 in my family.
Another:
You said it perfectly. Too many of our fans want it too easy. Jump in the car, go to a game, and get home in a half hour. They have an anti city attitude, like LI is nothing but beautiful beaches and tree shaded neighborhoods. And Brooklyn is too urban and scary. I wish they had torn down the coliseum after we left it. And how they refurbished it with the same concourse and limited bathrooms is almost criminal. Have been to maybe 350+ games there, 60 in Brooklyn. Give me the modern and comfortable building. With trains.
Another:
I am going to miss Barclays for one reason-the convenience of taking a train. I don’t relish the thought of racing out of work in NYC, rushing home, getting right in my car, and fighting traffic to the Coliseum.

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