Mock-up by Tom Fullery, seen on Puck Daddy. Please, please don’t let this happen.

The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn when their lease expires in 2015. This is a thing that’s happening. Crazy.

95% of Backhand Shelf readers know this, so bear with me for a sec, but a couple background sentences for the select others who don’t: My Dad and my Father-in-Law were both a part of the Islanders dynasty that won four Cups  in the early ’80s, and I myself was a player at Islanders camp in 2007, and spent that season in their farm system. I was born with New York Islanders blood, and that’s the way it is, was, and will be.

Over the past few years, the “will be” statement was sort of up in the air. There was the realistic possibility that the Isles would move, given their current terrible building and their owner’s inability to get a new one built. I may have passively rooted for the Islanders had they moved to Quebec City or Kansas City or Seattle or wherever, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I desperately wanted the Islanders to stay the Islanders so the history created there didn’t become obscure trivia, so the loyal fans got to keep their team, and for dozens of other reasons.

As most people know, Brooklyn is on Long Island. The team can keep their name, their history, and the fabric of who they are.

There’s a good number of different things effected by this move – here’s the way I see them:

Team Name

It is essential – and I’m very confident this will be the case – that the Islanders keep the name Islanders. I realize the chance to re-brand equals the chance to make more money in the short term, but given that the location is, again, technically on Long Island, you have to keep it to keep the core of the fanbase. The Islanders have a sizable core who grew up during the teams heyday, and they’ll make the trip to Brooklyn (or at least follow from home), keep the team as their own, and stay fans. If you switch it up, people will lose affiliation with the team. Apparently the Brooklyn Americans used to be a thing:

The jerseys are cute for throwbacks maybe, but don’t go doing that. Don’t stick us in Rangers colours. Speaking of colours…

The Jersey, The Colours

One of my biggest fears is that I’m not going to be able to recognize my team anymore. The Brooklyn Nets went straight black and white after the move to the Barclay’s, shades that already belong to the Los Angeles Kings, and would be terribly disappointing from a hockey aesthetics standpoint. And guh, look what they did with black last time.

I’m sure the Barclays Center would love to keep the colours uniform between their two teams sharing the building but man…the Isles just got back their excellent, classic, distinguished blue and orange uni’s. They look fantastic.

That’s the Islanders. Their logo is borderline iconic (to fans of the team, it is). Please, please don’t let them do something like the image at the top of this point. Blue and orange. Islanders. It’s what we are.

Building

The Barclay’s Center will be their new home:

First and foremost, damn, that place looks pretty fucking sweet. It’s built to be a basketball building though, and like most basketball-turned-NHL arenas, this means some problems for fans.

For one, it’s tiny. It would provide the lowest total available seats of any NHL arena at roughly 14,500. The previous low was the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which holds a few over 15,000. It’s great for creating volume in a building, but in the case of the Barclay’s Center, there’s one huge downfall: because it’s a basketball building, to accomodate hockey, they have to push back the seats on one side, meaning you’ve created a very minor league setting – the horseshoe.

I mean, we can live with it, but something about that doesn’t scream “professional hockey franchise.” We’ll see how that works – if I remember from when my Dad coached in the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas, it’s not that cool, and it affects sight-lines. Say what you want about Nassau Coliseum (the first time I was there as a player I changed and asked where the locker room was. I was in it.), but the sight-lines there were superb for fans.

Public Transit

Obviously a major perk of putting a team in Brooklyn is that people can get there via public transit. Nassau Coliseum didn’t offer that option, so it meant that basically everyone had to drive into, and out of the arena. That’s a bad set-up for traffic, sure, but it also sucks for people who’d like to have a couple pints while watching the game. At least now people have the option of accessing the game from a good distance away, including Isles fans that were close to the old building in Uniondale.

History

One of the biggest perks for me, is that my Father-in-Law’s name can still hang from the rafters, which can be seen alongside my Dad’s name on the list of NY Islanders Hall-of-Famers, which can be seen by all their banners…which won’t feel odd.

Going to games in Glendale feels a little strange when you look up and see Dale Hawerchuk’s name hanging up there even though he didn’t play for the franchise. It’s just…off. He wasn’t a Coyote. I’m glad fans of the future won’t have to say “that’s not right, Bourne/Gillies weren’t _____s.” Assuming they keep the team name, of course.

Team Attractiveness

It was an over-hyped concept, that players didn’t want to play for Long Island because of Nassau Coliseum. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a perk of going to play on the Island, but they mostly didn’t want to go because the team has a cheap owner who won’t spend to make his team competitive and nobody likes playing somewhere that winning is hopeless. We’ll see if those things change.

Brooklyn will make the team a (slightly) more attractive place to play, given that it’s just as easy to live in the city as it is to live farther east on the Island. It depends what you want – to be downtown, or to live on an estate. Plenty of players like city living, so the team could become more appealing to players around the league.

Don’t

With the hipster jokes. I just can’t believe how quickly the internet beat “Brooklyn Hipsters” into the ground (lots of hipsters live there, you guys).

Going Forward

When I consider what the situation was: crappy building with an owner who couldn’t get a new building while new arenas were springing up all over the continent, I’ll take the Islanders move to Brooklyn.

I know there are some sad fans, and there are some happy fans (I asked for Isles fans responses to the news on Twitter, and my @mentions exploded), and this move will work out better for some people than others, but I just feel like this was the best thing that could have come from a murky, nerve-wracking situation.

There are some people who will go to less games, there will be some people who go to more games, but in the end, there will still be the Islanders, and still be Islanders fans.

It’s not ideal, but it’s something.

Now’s the scary part: to sit around and wait to find out what the management plans to do with the team name, logo and colours (UPDATE: they’re keeping everything, yay!). I wouldn’t blame them if they wanted to do something fresh (start with the damn thirds) to cash in on the move, but I will blame them if they get too aggressive and mess up what we have going for us now.

At the very least, leave the team name alone. When the organization wins the Cup in 2015-2016 – which they obviously will, duh – it’ll be great to have “Islanders” engraved on the Cup one more time.

Comments (37)

  1. Correction: Brooklyn is NOT on Long Island. Brooklyn is a borough of New York City. Long Island is not within the city limits of New York. Just FYI…

  2. Regarding attendance, Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) tweeted “The Barclays Center holds 14,500 for hockey. Last time, #isles averaged more than that at Nassau Coliseum was 2002-03 (14,930).”

    From my perspective, if that season had been played at the Barclays Center, the Islanders 2002-03 average attendance would have been 14,165. A loss of 766 tickets per game. In fact the Islanders 2011-12 average attendance of 13,191 would’ve been 12,758 in Barclays… a loss of 434 tickets and revenue per game.

    I’m wondering if this can really be the long term plan/solution.

    • Revenue will go up because of the number of suites in Barclays Center, een if they lose regular tickets a game. That said, I think that they’re playing with fire choosing to play in a barn that small. I think Winnepeg is too small which makes this way too small – and with a less rabid fan base, how much can they jack up ticket prices to compensate?

      • I tend to agree on this point. Obviously the reason the MTS Centre and the Jets can survive on 15,000 fans a night is because they’re sold out for the next ten thousand years (or something). There are huge questions whether or not the Islanders could consistently sell out the Barclay’s Center.

        Garth Snow now has a clear timetable on turning the Islanders into a winning team that attracts their fans to the new arena by 2015.

      • There is a rabid fan base in New York and with the young talent that the Islanders have then they should start drawing more of a crowd. Playing in a modern building will help too.

        My concern with this is the fact that they don’t own the building. At least in Winnipeg the MTS Center is owned by True North, so at least they’re not giving up any ticket revenue to building owners. The Islanders will be sacrificing more seats and be giving a cut of ticket sales to someone else. That can’t be good for the bottom line.

        The good news is this pretty much grantees the Islanders will be taking revenue sharing from the league for many years to come.

      • Agreed. And with so few seats, the potential for HUGE revenue years because of having a stellar team, an engaged public and a sold out barn is limited. As a result their margin of error is even smaller than before.

        Seems to me, at best, with everything hitting on all cylinders, the Islanders can have a good to very good year… but otherwise they’ll always have an average to below average year. No hope for a freakin’ amazing year, ticket revenue-wise.

        Plus, even if Winnipeg can never break attendance/revenue records… their cultural importance to the area beyond the 15,000 game attendees cannot be overstated. The Jets are a part of their DNA and ownership are aware that they are stewards and facilitators of that. The same will NEVER be true of the Brooklyn Islanders and their ownership. Whether the Islanders succeed or not will be absolutely meaningless to the VAST majority of NYC’ers. Their loss would barely register a blip on the NYC scene.

        True Islanders success can only be measured financially and in their all too infrequent flashes of Stanley Cup runs.

        • 2,000 less cheap seats @$20 per, even if the Isles were already selling out, would only cost the team 1.6 million. They will have about a hundred more luxury boxes. The season tix will probably be higher as there is more corporate money available. Winnipeg does not have big corporations to buy up tix & boxes. The team will make a ton more than the 1.6 million lost from the cheap seats.

          • Curt… while I don’t disagree with your premise of increased income because of corporate money… there are a couple problems with your math.

            First off, I don’t see that the Islanders currently have $20 cheap seats. The cheapest start at $24 so there’s potentially almost a 20% decrease in income right away.

            But the biggie is the Barclay Center’s seating chart for hockey. Not only is it smaller… but you lose a lot of seats waaaaaay more valuable than the cheapest nose-bleeds.

            Based on the Islanders current ticket prices (which, I’ll admit, will rise substantially when they move the Brooklyn… but that’s a part of this argument… in order to make this work, their ticket prices are going to have to be jacked way up there, making sell outs during bad years difficult), cross referenced with Barclay’s seating chart, the seats they’re going to lose most are the lower and mid level ones, which range from $87 to $144 each. The nosebleed seats are not really affected as much.

            I think it would be safe to use $100 as an average of the seat value missing from Barclay’s. So now you’re looking at a potential loss of $8.2 million, not $1.6.

            All I’m saying is, the Barclays Center’s seating will be a limiting factor in the financial success of the team.

  3. Brooklyn is most certainly a part of Long Island — so is Queens, by the way.

    As Nassau County resident (and someone who covered Jason’s dad and father-in-law), it became obvious that no one wanted to build new arena — nor did they want to let Wang do it as part of a development project on what is the only really build-able piece of land let in Nassau County. Only surprise about this was that it happened so soon, but Barclays likely needs 1-2 year lead time to retrofit building for hockey.

    Good points: Access to rail and subway. Brand new building should generate more $$, which hopefully the owner will spend to improve the team.

    Minuses: It’s no longer a “Long Island” team, although it may actually be easier for a lot of people to get there.

    • What I find funny is that the Barclay’s Center is easier to access from the Long Island Railroad than the Nassau Coliseum is.

      It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t build a new arena out on the Island but I don’t blame the residents for not letting Wang get away with the development he wanted to do. It was outrageous.

      • And another point, the Barclay’s Center area is a pretty tough drive from Long Island making the mass transit much more important.

  4. Well this news sucks for my Dad who is a long time Islanders fan. I think financially it could work out depending on how well they do and people in the area respond to them. I live in St. John’s and our arena is far from big. It holds about 6500 or so. Since the Ice Caps moved here though it has not gone without a sellout yet. So even though it’s far from the biggest arena it still has one of the highest averages in attendances. As opposed to the Marlies who have to sell tickets at $10 just to get ppl in the seats. That’s a shot at Toronto for moving the Baby Leafs away.

    If they do sell out the majority of their games, sell suites at average to higher prices then they could be more successful. That will depend though on the success of the team though as no one is going to care after a cpl of years of the team finishing near the gutter. They have a decent fan base but are obviously nowhere near the Leafs or Habs, which do well regardless if they get 5 wins in a season.

    This is also all depending of course on if there’s even an NHL by 2015. Which seems to be a million miles away right now.

  5. My office overlooks the Barclay’s Center. I will definitely go to more Isles games now :D

    I can’t see them trying to ‘rebrand’, unless they merely change the name from NY to ‘Brooklyn’ Islanders, which I wouldn’t have a problem with. They could even shade in the county on the logo.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the teams will no longer HATE playnig the Isles, since they wont be trapped in the middle of nowhere.

    • The Isles were a special kind of vice pre-1980, I never paid more than face value since I was typically buying from another fan who just suddenly had a spare (and we’d be sitting next to each other) even for playoff games. But MSG (the subways, LIRR, Amtrak) has had like three upgrades since then, the Devils have the new Prudential Center (I’ve been to it twice more than Isles games since it was built) which is two blocks from the PATH trains and Amtrak. Access to mass transit is HUGE in this area. And so is a new arena.

      I am not sure who or where the Isles AHL affilliate is, but I’d bet dollars to donuts they end up in the Coluseum, which is fine for a lower tier league and I’d probably go to a few if the prices are right.

      • The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, since 2001. Wang owns them as well. The chances of them moving into the vacated Coliseum are between zero and No Frackin’ Way. I doubt Wang wants another thin dime of his going to Nassau County after the way they’ve treated the islanders for the past ten years.

        • The Soundtigers arena is relatively new and the attendence has been good. I wouldn’t be shocked if an ECHL team came to LI (probably in a new facility in Suffolk though).

  6. In the press conference they mentioned retrofits to get it up to 15,500. I forgot who I heard the idea from but you could make a SRO section at the open end of the horseshoe. Many European Football clubs have SRO at the ends filled with the most rabid fans. Could be an interesting quirk that turns out pretty awesome instead of amateur.

    Fenway has one of the smallest capacities in baseball. It has a big green wall where most stadiums have thousands of seats. But people love the ish out of that wall. If they do it right it will be something good.

    • The London Knights of the OHL have a SRO section with a pretty intense fan base. Not sure if you or anyone has ever experienced SRO but it sucks. Somehow it always ends up being 3 people deep and good luck if you need to go to the bathroom. “Assigned” SRO pretty much means if you have to stand sideways and watch the game over your shoulder the people are so cramped in there.

    • “Many European Football clubs have SRO at the ends filled with the most rabid fans. ”

      Yeah, and they were banned in England due to safety issues.

      Limited SRO is just fine (it’s a tradition in Montreal, for instance), but full terrace-esque structures? No way. They can just as easily come up with a temporary / modular structure that can be erected on game days to fill that space.

      I mean, for crying out loud, the Lightning made Tropicana Field work very well as a hockey venue once upon a time (and held the NHL single-game attendance record for a good long while, to boot). The configuration won’t matter if the team is decent, and the Isles are certainly trending in that direction.

  7. I think it’ll be nice to have a hockey team in my neighborhood, so this is great for me. I’ve been to several Islanders games at the Colosseum, for me it takes a bus, a ferry, a subway, a train then another bus, but add two beers and the ticket you’ve got the price of one nosebleed seat at MSG.

    Any news on which internal organ I’m going to have to sell for tickets at Barclays?

    • A bus, a ferry, a subway, a train and then another bus? How is that even possible if you live in Brooklyn, which I assume you do as you say the Isles will be in your neighborhood? Are you using Apple maps?

  8. They’re keeping the name and logo according to Puck Daddy.

  9. I couldn’t believe how quickly the hipster jokes got old too, but I learned a long time ago that people outside of Brooklyn don’t realize Williamsburg’s just a neighborhood, not the whole borough.

    I’m excited for the move, though I really hope they can figure out a way to retrofit the stadium so that the seating wraps around all of the ice.

  10. This isn’t all so bad. LI residents can take the LIRR to Atlantic Terminal. But the capacity seems to be detrimental, unless they hike the FUCK out of ticket prices (note: they are TOTALLY going to hike the FUCK out of ticket prices).

  11. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do, http://Max14.com

  12. Justin, what are your thoughts on making it the Brooklyn Islanders? My brother is an old time Islander fan who now lives in Brooklyn and is of the opinion that it would be a sin not to incorporate Brooklyn into the name.

  13. First of all, Justin, you’re obviously the best qualified person on the internet to write about this particular subject, so thanks for such a thoughtful piece.

    I think the financials are definitely going to work out for the Islanders. While the most profitable thing about the team has always been the TV deal, they’ve had trouble in recent years drawing from the bigger population centres of the outer boroughs. This addresses this problem instantly, and combined with the Devils’ move away from NYC (I personally know at least half a dozen Manhattan-based fans who had to give up season tickets when they moved to Newark), makes the Isles a viable alternative to fans who can’t get Rangers season tickets.

    Overall, it’s hard to see negatives about this deal. If they were selling out in the former rink then there would be, but they weren’t. Corporate money / tickets alone will make this worthwhile.

    • “Devils move away from NYC”?? Not sure I follow this. Devils went from a parking lot in NJ to downtown Newark, where someone from Manhattan can take a train right there. In that respect it would be easier to get there.

      But either way, Devils never played in NYC so can’t figure out where that comment is coming from.

      • Yeah, no clue i live in NJ and i am a penguin fan…i go to a ton of devils ad rangers games…its so much easier to take the train and walk a block to the rock than drive up the turnpike. id say any devil fan in NYc would be able to go easier

  14. Good grammar buddy.

    “This is a thing that’s happening.”

    You might want to get someone to proofread your writing before you post it. Try someone in elementary school, even they could correct this sentence. Lol

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