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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.